On elected officials: Why we just cannot get it right…

It will surprise no one that at the time of this writhing Congress is sitting at a 16% approval rating. Now any explanation of such strong disapproval would be incomplete without reference to gerrymandering, however while that is part of the mix, I believe the root is far more basic, and prevalent. Most of our major political offices are filled by people who win elections, and ( most ) of the rest are filled by direct appointment of the winners, so my main focus here is that our system rewards people who are good at winning elections, not people that are good at governance. These groups are not mutually exclusive, but I am going to argue that the overlap is small, and the difference ( over MANY MANY elections over time) has had and will continue to have a huge impact.

So what do I mean that being good at winning elections and being good at governance are different things? To start just look at the skill sets, what makes a good governor, or leader? Honesty, integrity, concern for others, there are many more, but I’m keeping it basic. Now what traits make a good politician? Access to money, appearance, ability to speak well. Notice the lists are not the same, sure there is some overlap, intelligence would apply to both, but my point is our elections are kind of like holding MMA tournament to appoint a police chief, there is no reason someone good at MMA will not make a great chief, but really that system will ( especially over time) will turn out more good MMA fighters than good chiefs.

So our ( or really any ) election system is a ( hopefully) cleverly devised means of narrowing down everyone who wants to do the job to just one person, I argue that it should output ( ideally) the best person for the job or at least a good person for the job. Given the approval ratting I started with I argue this is NOT the case with our current system, and here is why: The single largest means of narrowing down the pool in an election is money, ask any one you know who would make a good leader, who has potential why they do not run for office. This eliminates an un-told amount of EXCELLENT people from the running, AND gives those with access to money a free pass from the largest cut to the pool. I cannot stress this enough, access to money does NOT equal a good leader! These are two VERY different things but by the time the ballots are printed this is what has in effect decided our candidates. This is why our government has such poor results, our entire election system skews not towards good leaders, but toward the wealthy.

So how would an election that is designed to elect good leaders look? Well we start out with a big pool and then eliminate people based on our criteria for good leaders. So start with everyone interested in the position as a potential candidate, then have the first round eliminate who simply cannot do the job, a BASIC civil service exam would suffice . Of those remaining ( which would be a HUGE pool of people) hold conferences of a few hundred each, maybe 8-12 hrs each where the pool will narrow its self down, remember we are looking for people who can build consensus and work together, I think that we record everything and that process will replace the campaign, just put 100 people in a room and ask them nicely to come up with 5 or so people who would be best for the job, Record EVERYTHING! And have the 4 or so people named form the next 100 or so person carcass, so on and so forth until we have the desired amount of candidates. When a caucus fails to produce 4 ( or any ) names the recording will be INVALUABLE in showing exactly who said what and who was not working towards consensus. There would also have to be a STRONG prohibition on “outside” political activity, IE: campaigns as we know them. Ideally this system would produce one person who all agree is the best ( or at least good) for the job, it would assuredly produce FAR better leaders than our current reward the best at winning elections system, not that 14% is a very high bar…

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