I think it was during the last presidential election, with concurrent elections of senators and representatives, that I suggested to my wife that we should draft congressmen and elect people to go fight in wars. At the time I was joking, but the idea is growing on me with every 60 Minutes story of congressional abuse of power. If we truly want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we the people need to step up and into positions of leadership.
The overwhelming problem, it occurs to me, is the co-opting of our congress by corporate interests that have only the interests of profit and shareholders at heart. That status quo is more than endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties. We need senators and representatives more connected to the average person.
We have had outstanding public servants in the past, but many of them have resigned in disgust over the current in-fighting between political parties and their various factions. There is little evidence this will change without a complete overhaul in how we go about choosing members of congress.
I propose that from local school boards on up to the federal level, we consider drafting people into those positions. At least draft two or three candidates for each position. Law enforcement officials, mayors, governors, and the President of the United States would be elected in pretty much the same manner as they are now, with appointments to Cabinet positions at their discretion. The benefits of drafting others to serve would be many-fold:
- No campaign costs. There would be a huge savings in campaign costs, and no need to campaign for re-election during the term you are serving. The media would be forced to do its job of researching a “candidate,” and learn that person’s values, employment history, and educational background. I should state that any person drafted would have the right to refuse service, much like jury duty.
- Redistricting would be rendered obsolete. Both political parties frequently attempt to secure domination in congressional districts through redistricting, changing the boundaries of the congressional district to include neighborhoods heavily weighted in favor of their party. This practice would be rendered moot if we draft candidates randomly.
- More diversity in political views. We are much more likely to get independent voices into public office by drafting people than by electing people because the current two-party system dominates through the financial backing of wealthy individuals and corporations (even certain non-profits). People who ally themselves with the Green Party, Libertarian Party, or some other affiliation, if any at all, would finally have an equal chance at getting into office. Yes, that would be a blessing or a curse, depending on one’s current affiliation.
- The infrastructure is in place. We already have the infrastructure to make this work. We also have the flexibility to create a hierarchy in the selection process. Perhaps we would start with those registered for unemployment compensation. Certainly the unemployed would have far more empathy for the middle-class than our current “leaders.” We definitely want to limit the pool to those who are registered to vote and who have demonstrated active participation in our current political process through a consistent voting record.
- More consensus in decision-making. I honestly believe that a body of average citizens is better at reaching a consensus on a given issue than are the elitist people currently in office (at least at the federal level). Again, I make the comparison to a jury. Sure, there are “hung” juries, but they make a more honest attempt at reaching agreement, and there are no corporate-driven agendas to fuel the fighting. The goal is justice, pure and simple. The current goal of congress is to provide security and profit to corporate interests.
- A more literate and informed electorate. Simply the fear of being drafted to a public office and appearing incompetent may be enough to drive the average Joe into learning more about our form of government and the responsibilities it has to the citizens. Once put into play, a draft system would also demand that citizens keep up to speed on things to insure accountability of their servants in office.
This idea of a political draft is certainly not flawless, but if it even generates a discussion on how we can refine our current system and put power back in the hands of the public, I’ve accomplished my mission. Our country and its citizens are too important to allow the continued gridlock and excesses that we see in today’s government.
We cannot continue on our present course of keeping the status quo. We know the hazards of natural resource extraction, for example. Clean energy cannot wait. We know there is “equal opportunity” in rhetoric only. We know we need to set a much better example for the world, while understanding there is no shame in borrowing ideas from the states, or even other nations. We should be fearless, but not reckless, in innovation, and fund basic research to make that innovation happen.
If public service is no longer something anyone aspires to, then it is time to turn the system on its head so that it at least has a chance at commanding the respect it once did. History can repeat itself in good ways as well as bad ways.