My Turn: Two glaring failures of the American political system

For the Monitor
Published: 8/8/2020 6:00:25 AM

For many of us, the upcoming presidential election cannot come soon enough. We are barely surviving what will go down in history as the biggest electoral mistake this country has ever made. The damage done to our society and planet by this incompetent, cowardly, evil leader and his Republican minions must never be repeated. How he gained office in the first place points out two glaring failures of our political system.

The Electoral College is a relic that must be eliminated. The Founding Fathers put it in place because they lacked confidence in the ability of a free voting public to make good decisions. It has become a tool for Republicans to steal elections through gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts. Now Republicans are even threatening the post office because they are afraid of the results of mail-in voting. The party in power is doing all it can to stop people from voting.

The recent hours-long wait at polling stations in several states is an absolute outrage and should be cause for voters to rise up in protest. The fundamental principle of one person one vote, the foundation of democracy, is under siege like never before.

Abolishing the Electoral College, however desired by the majority of the public, is nearly impossible. It requires a constitutional amendment, which needs approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as 75% of the states. A blue wave in November might allow for passage in Congress, but approval by the states is unlikely. As abhorrent as it is, we will likely need to live with the Electoral College for at least several more elections.

We can do something, however, about the second glaring failure of our system that is seldom discussed – the absence of any real set of standards for the highest office in the land. To run for president, one only needs to be 35 years old, be a natural-born citizen, and a U.S. resident for 14 years. That’s it. There are no other qualifications for becoming the most powerful political leader in the world.

This omission has allowed a number of highly unqualified people to gain the presidency. None, however, have been so completely unsuited for the job as Trump. It will take years to assess the full damage of his tenure. But his complete mismanagement of the pandemic is costing thousands of lives and incalculable suffering.

The interview process for any position of authority, whether in the private or public sector, becomes more rigorous as the position becomes more responsible. Can you imagine any company hiring for a leadership position without establishing an appropriate set of standards? Yet, the vetting process for the world’s most powerful leader is virtually non-existent.

It is past time to establish a strict vetting process for anyone running for president and, indeed, for any national office. They must be of sound mind and body, and able to pass demanding psychological tests, understand complex situations, and show good judgment. Their IQ should be in an upper range, as should their senses of empathy and compassion. Their lives should reflect a high moral ground. They must be team builders, able to absorb large amounts of information and bridge the gap between disparate positions. Even a minimal screening process would have eliminated Trump as a candidate.

In prior elections, a seemingly endless series of debates is the way Americans decided whom to vote for. But without winnowing the field first with a minimum set of standards, we end up with candidates who are clearly unqualified.

We deserve much better. It is an honor to run for president. Not only is it a position of immense power and influence, our president is considered the leader of the free world, setting an example for others to follow.

Future presidential candidates ought to be vetted with the most rigorous standards to ensure only the brightest and wisest among us run for office. This ought to be one of the first orders of business the new Biden administration brings to Congress for a vote.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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