Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recall Elections are Bad for Democracy

Despite leading Wisconsin to one of the weaker economic state recoveries, Governor Walker handily won his recall election.

I know recall elections were instituted so elected officials who engaged in truly egregious behavior could be ousted by an outraged public. From what I can tell, unless the behavior is clearly illegal (and sometimes not even then) most recall elections are nothing but a waste of time and money. 

Worse, they inhibit a functioning democracy. Holding open the possibility of recall only hardens political positions: if you are in the minority, why compromise when you can ask the voters for a redo to “throw the bum out.” This is pernicious to good government, where compromise is necessary for democracy.

A majority of one should not be a tyranny over the minority; nor should the current minority do everything in its power to make the incumbents fail, especially if the public is harmed (as US Senator Mitch McConnell has perversely recommended as the means to insure President Obama is defeated in his reelection attempt).

A reasonably quick, but thorough, impeachment process will take care of the truly illegal behavior since it will require members from both parties to agree the actions were beyond the pale. Otherwise, we should elect officials for their full terms and evaluate them when the term is completed. Then we either re-elect them or turn them out of office.

Political parties and their supporters in the US must recognize that the vast majority of Americans are centrists, swaying right or left primarily as a reflection of the excesses of the side currently in power. Recall elections pander to the extremes of the parties, and the middle is right to vote for incumbents in the majority of the cases—which is what happened in Wisconsin.

~ Jim

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