How to Never Again Have a Clinton/Trump: A Radical Electoral Reform Proposal

We have never had presidential candidates with such high negativity ratings, so little trusted and so little admired, indeed so mistrusted and even despised, by the majority of Americans. How did we end up with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our presidential candidates? Due to a broken political system, whose selective process is not based primarily on the candidates’ true competence and true qualifications. Apart from not being highly respected and trusted, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not demonstrated a high level of knowledge and competence in economic, social, and foreign policy, which should be required of all presidential candidates in addition to an irreproachable character.

Hillary Clinton defines being “qualified to be president” as having a long resume of government experience. But she is gravely mistaken, since having lots of government experience, even at the highest levels, is no guarantee of competence. We have had innumerable governors, senators, congressmen, secretaries of state, vice presidents, and presidents who have been incompetent. True presidential qualifications would be a high level of analytic and creative intelligence combined with a high level of knowledge in economic, social, and foreign policy. It is a fallacy to think that a president doesn’t need to be an expert in his or her own right on economic, social and foreign policy, and needs only to be surrounded by good advisors. In fact, how could a non-expert president optimally digest and synthesize advice from within and outside the administration? How could a non-expert president be sure to select good advisors? There are many prestigious advisors around with differing opinions, some correct and some mistaken. Can a non-expert president know how to distinguish good from bad advice?

Since our two major political parties have not demonstrated the ability to always come up with highly qualified presidential candidates, the nation’s electorate needs to have the added choice of a viable independent presidential candidate, one with demonstrable intelligence and outstanding knowledge in economic, social, and foreign policy. How can that become a reality? As will be addressed below, we need a federally financed primary to select a highly qualified independent presidential candidate to compete against the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. In addition, we could require the Democratic and Republican parties to consider as their presidential candidates only those who demonstrate a high level of knowledge and competence in economic, social, and foreign policy.

Objectively, Clinton would fail on the knowledge and competence requirement for foreign policy, due to her naïve “reset” with a KGB-led Russian government and for sending an American ambassador to jihadi dominated Benghazi, Libya with only three bodyguards. Trump would fail due to his expressed admiration for Russia’s president, an aggressive career KGB man. And neither Clinton nor Trump have explained how they would get to the bottom of Islamic terrorism and end it. Or how they would end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. (Neither Clinton nor Trump have ever considered how to effectively use the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter in order to achieve foreign policy goals.) In social policy, neither Clinton nor Trump have any idea how to solve our poverty/crime problem. (The solution is a strong economy with very low unemployment combined with a much improved public education system which eliminates the drop-out phenomenon, through strict class discipline, lots of homework, lots of organized after-school activities, and individual tutoring for students having academic difficulty. Banning guns is a naïve, populist, demagogic proposal. Drugs are illegal, but they are readily available on the black market. The same would happen if guns were outlawed. Plus, as we have seen, there are alternatives to guns, for example homemade bombs and knives.) Both Clinton and Trump fail on economic policy, as neither one has explained how to avoid long recessions and high unemployment in the future. (The solution would be having QE-financed tax rebates as the standard economic stimulus policy, to be used whenever the economy tips into recession and unemployment starts rising.)

How would a federally financed primary to select a highly qualified independent presidential candidate be organized? With a $10,000 fee, any person can register to participate in the federally financed independent presidential candidate primary. The fee must be accompanied by a detailed written platform, analyzing the nation’s economic, social, and foreign policy problems and proposing specific solutions. The various platforms will be posted online at a dedicated website, with the candidates’ identities hidden, so that the platforms will be judged exclusively on their merits. All voting age citizens will be assigned a personal #ID and will be able to vote for the platform of their choice. The authors of the top ten vote getting platforms will be revealed and participate in a series of live primetime-televised debates financed by the federal government. They will also be individually interviewed in-depth by panels of top journalists (TV, print, and radio) on live, primetime broadcasts. Following the first round of debates and individual interviews, an online vote will be had, with the top five vote getters going on to a second round of televised debates and individual in- depth interviews. Another online vote will determine the three independent candidates who will be admitted to a third round. The two winners of the third round vote will be the finalists for a fourth round. The winner of the fourth round vote will then become the independent presidential candidate, whose campaign will be financed by the federal government with an amount equal to the amounts raised by the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

The independent presidential candidates primary selection process would start at the middle of November a year before the presidential election, with the final selection taking place just prior to the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions leading up to the presidential election. Three federally financed live primetime TV debates will be held between the Democratic, Republican, and independent candidates, and all three candidates will have to be individually interviewed in-depth by three panels of top journalists on separate evenings on live primetime TV. By Election Day, American voters should have a good idea of which candidate is the best, and be very satisfied with the quality of at least one candidate! The winner most likely will turn out to be an excellent president, one who truly starts solving many of the nation’s problems. The precedent will have been set, and the nation will finally always have truly qualified, highly competent and respected presidents.

August 30, 2016

© Edward Sonnino 2016

@EdwardSonnino