Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is this the best way to choose a President? I don't think so.

America needs a better way to choose presidential candidates. Let’s go to the heart of the problem. Let’s not nibble around the edges. Let’s make fundamental reforms.

The current primary process leaves no one standing and gives voters no real choice. The debates, Super Pacs, distortions, outright lies and constant, negative news cycle expose the system for what it has become. Our democracy cannot survive this.

The problem isn’t candidates or their consultants. It’s not the PACS and Super Pacs that finance them. The problem is voters who rely on those tactics in making one of the most critical judgments of a democracy. Candidates do what they do because it works. It works because most voters have become lazy.

America has diluted the responsibility of the voter, using slogans like, “It doesn’t matter whom you vote for just so you vote.” Nonsense. Of course it matters. But if voters only know what they hear from candidates’ talking points or 30-second TV commercials, they should not be voting at all.

Voters who fail to educate themselves on the complicated issues of a presidential campaign become sitting ducks for those who have enough money to create the most alluring media. Uneducated voters are prime targets for campaign consultants who know how to push the right buttons, use the most inflammatory words, and develop messages with the intent of covering or altering the facts.

If voters are either unable or unwilling to educate themselves enough to be genuine players in the electoral process, we should change who gets to vote, at least in the primary.

What if we chose party nominees like we choose juries?

Juries make thousands of tough decisions everyday. Unlike the primary process, the jury process assures decisions will almost always be informed and fair. Those jury decisions with which you disagree with are ones the media has targeted with their own spin. Even then, 9 times out of 10, you’d have reached the same conclusion if you’d sat through the trial and actually heard the evidence rather than the media version.

We’d never consider allowing voters to decide the fate of those charged with criminal offenses. That’s the duty of a jury of their peers, carefully chosen and willing to listen to the evidence. Why not require the same for those who choose a president?

In courtrooms, experts select the jurors. Lawyers, familiar with the facts, question or voir dire prospective candidates for juror. Questions must be relevant to that person’s qualifications to serve. Members of the jury pool are asked about their attitudes, knowledge, leanings, and prejudices. Upon hearing the answers, those who best know the facts choose who will set on the jury and who will be excused.

What if each party chose a small group of people with a depth of knowledge about the issues to “voir dire” the candidates? Anyone who wanted to run could be in the “candidate pool.” No TV commercials, no theatrics, just the candidates and the experts, face-to-face on the issues. A knowledgeable group of persons asking the questions would have only one goal, i.e. identify the candidate best qualified to run against the other parties’ candidates in the general election.

Candidates for nomination would be required to know what they’re talking about. Imagine that! They couldn’t hide behind the masks the media create for them today. The selection process would far better educate voters than what we offer today. There would be no need to raise huge sums of money. Super Pacs would be irrelevant.

Once the parties chose a nominee, all voters, not the Electoral College, would make the final choice from the nominees with the general election campaign publicly financed. Funding should be restricted to amounts restrictive enough to require candidates to actually campaign for office rather than resort to media images and messages.

The current system is an unbecoming charade and doesn’t produce a real choice. We need a change that will restore dignity to our democracy.

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