As I wrote in my previous post, a half-hearted non-endorsement of Cruz over Trump, process matters.
We are hearing a lot about the nominations process in both parties, as Sanders and Trump both complain about a process rigged against them by arcane rules (despite the fact that there is a good case the rules are actually helping them). To this complaint, as with so many, I want to scream: READ THE FEDERALIST PAPERS!
Look, remember this commercial for Nextel about how great things would be if firefighters ran things. Bunch of people with common sense would be able to work things out. It’s a pretty image, but utterly, profoundly, false. In the commercial everyone agrees we need good roads and clean water. That’s awesome. In the real world there are quite limited resources and competing priorities. So how should limited resources be distributed?
Vote on it?
It is never that simple. Can 51% vote to take stuff from 49% without recourse on every issue? And that’s assuming an up or down vote. What if it is more general so that there are multiple options? Could the group with the most votes get power even if they were in a minority overall? What if in a multi-party free-for all 25% elected themselves as a dictatorship even though 75% agreed they hated this 25% but couldn’t unite on anything else?
That’s silly, it would be yes or no on a bill. Fine, but then who writes the bills and who sets the agenda?
Democracies have procedures, rules, about how business is conducted. They have to! That’s what the Constitution does, it sets out the basic procedures and operations of the U.S. government. The founding fathers (does that always have to be capitalized?) knew history and that the democracies of antiquity destroyed themselves, collapsing into mob rule. In establishing a Republic they sought to give the people a voice, but not create a government that quickly responded to every popular whim. They created a vast mechanism that filters public sentiment, giving voice to a range of interests and constituencies. And yes, this can make our system ineffective, that is by design. They felt that a more effective government would be a more dangerous government.
The decision-making structures shape the process (focusing on this is known as institutionalism in poli-sci world). Poor structural design can really hurt decision-making (exhibit 1 – Israel – see here and here).
The point here isn’t that the Democratic and Republican parties have just terrific decision-making structures. I’m kind of agnostic. Rather, understanding how to operate within these structures and maximize your effectiveness.
Sort of like in baseball. Getting lots of people on base is essential to winning – it is probably the single most important component to scoring runs. But you still have to drive those runs in. If you keep leaving men on base, you will lose.
Being President means dealing with institutions with arcane rules and decision-making procedures (Congress, the bureaucracy) so if you can’t master this on the campaign trail – you probably shouldn’t be president.