Tue 15 Jan 2008
Isn’t it terrible that bad people keep wining the presidency? If there’s one political strand that unifies Americans, it’s their ability to find faults in our presidents. Some of us hate Clinton, some hate Bush. Some of us are older and hate Reagan or Carter. Some are old enough to hate Nixon, Johnson or Kennedy. So if we all agree that at least some of the people who get elected are jerks, surely we could all agree that the best course would be to minimize the damage these people could do.
But we never ever hear this. We always hear about what a candidate will do, not how they will prevent themselves from doing things. And this makes sense — what kind of person would spend all that time and money achieving a position of power only to limit that power once they got there? But the electorate should adopt a longer term perspective.
If you’re a Democrat, doesn’t this sound persuasive? “Look at the terrible things the Republicans have done with their unchecked power. If I am elected, I can’t guarantee that a Republican won’t be elected after me. But I can guarantee that I will do all I can to remove the powers that they abuse. A vote for me is not just for the policies you want, or against [insert current Republican candidate here], but a vote against any Republican who will ever be elected again.” If you’re a Republican, just swap the names of the parties.
But no one wants this. People vainly cling to the hope that somehow only people with good ideas from their party will be elected, despite the vast evidence to the contrary. Everyone tells me that what Bush has done is so bad that it is vital that we elect someone who will decisively reject everything he stood for. But I have a very good imagination. I can imagine a president doing that again, and far worse things. So give me a candidate who won’t just not be Bush, but prevent a president from acting like him ever again.
But again, no one wants this. People are just fine with completely unchecked governmental power. They just want it to be controlled by someone on their side.