In political campaigns for most other offices, the candidate who gets the most votes wins — but not if you’re running for our nation’s highest office. Surely we can find some way to eliminate the vestigial, preposterous, bizarre Electoral College, which also gives a disproportionate voice to the citizens of smaller states and forces presidential campaigns to focus on only a handful of swing states, which in turn makes every vote in at least 40 non-swing states essentially meaningless. Why then should citizens participate? Why should they bother to vote? Should we adopt a ranked-choice voting system? Under such systems, if a citizen’s first choice gets eliminated in the first round, the second choice vote then gets cast — until one candidate finally receives majority support. Already in use in many local American elections, this “instant runoff” method allows voters to express their true preferences for lesser-known candidates—and ideas—without the fear that they would be “wasting their vote” and benefiting the leading candidate on the other side of the political spectrum. Should we consider one of the many kinds of proportional representation systems already in use in many other countries? Imagine that Green Party candidates or Libertarian Party candidates received 33 percent of the vote in each of America’s 435 congressional districts — but didn’t emerge as the winner in a single one. (With ranked-choice voting, numbers like that might become far more likely.) Under our current winner-take-all rules, those parties would win exactly zero seats in our House of Representatives. What’s “representative” about that? No less than 14 American vice presidents have gone on to serve as president — nearly a third of our 44 presidents. Yet the process for selecting candidates for that office is invented from scratch by a few insiders every four years, completely opaque and wholly undemocratic. Isn’t that something we ought to reconsider? What about the power to wage war — and lesser military undertakings like targeted assassinations by drone? Our Constitution gives the power to declare war exclusively to Congress. It has not done so since 1942. Want to know how to transform the United States from a republic into an autocratic empire, just like ancient Rome? Continue to indefinitely tolerate the current reality of American war powers: that once someone swears an oath “to defend the Constitution of the United States” on Jan. 20, that person is handed the keys to the Pentagon’s entire arsenal to employ at his or her sole discretion. Should voter registration take place automatically at birth? Should voting be mandatory as in many other countries? Should we continue to leave the rules for who gets to vote in presidential primaries up to individual parties and states? And can we devise any alternatives — e.g., weekend voting or widespread mail voting — to holding Election Day on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a date chosen for the convenience of 18th-century farmers? Would something like a single six-year presidential term allow our national executive to focus less on politics and more on policy? Might there be some way we can do something similar in Congress, as opposed to now, where pretty much the day after members win election they start raising money for the next contest? The 2010 Citizens United decision is so antithetical to a functioning democracy that groups like Common Cause, Public Citizen and WolfPAC are calling for constitutional amendments or even a constitutional convention, just to address money in politics. Many hold a deep conviction that most politicians are completely oblivious to the concerns of ordinary folks and are instead essentially bought and sold by corporate uber-citizens and members of the 1 percent. It’s hard to imagine anything that leads to more political alienation and disengagement than that. Surely we can enact some of the many kinds of campaign finance reforms already on the table, so that the quest for campaign contributions doesn’t remain forever the central feature of virtually all American elections. Just a few days before America’s 240th, Alvin Toffler died. He was most well-known for description of the condition he called “future shock” — the extraordinary personal and societal dislocation that results when so many things change so much more rapidly than ever before. And yet, Toffler said, “99 percent of what politicians do is keep systems running that were laid in place by previous generations of politicians.” Why is it that virtually everything else in our modern age evolves except our politics and governing structures? Your support matters…

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