The rising tide of unsubstantiated allegations of Russian interference with the presidential election is encouraging a lot of dangerous exuberance among establishment Democrats and pundits. There are rumblings among them that the Electoral College will somehow find these rumors true (which would be great and terrifying, IF true). If so, they could sway the election toward Clinton within the EC, despite the current delegate count that gave Trump the victory.
To a desperate mind, this sounds reasonable. Trump is the most terrifying political figure in American history now; his resemblance to dictators past is unquestionable. His cabinet appointments to this point are billionaires and nut jobs, appointed it seems by the mind of a budding fourth-grade sociopath. Allowing this man to assume the presidency is a risk we can’t afford if we want to retain any semblance of a compassionate democracy. (And I do mean “semblance,” because we all know we are an oligarchy now.)
Yet, if the Electoral College were somehow provided real evidence of a Russian conspiracy to fix the election for Trump, the absolutely most dangerous thing they could do would be to give the presidency to Clinton.
Trump supporters would riot. It would prove to them that so much of what Trump said about the “fixed election” and “crooked Hillary” were unquestionably true. Giving that kind of incentive for outrage and violence to one of the most angry and prone-to-violence electorates in American history would be reckless to the point of felonious. People would die. Don’t doubt it.
So what do we do?
We have to hold a do-over election.
First things first: Neither Trump nor Clinton can become President of the United States. They were horrible choices during the election and neither can bring the country even remotely together again. They are divisive politicians and their laundry lists of negatives are what set this disaster in motion to begin with. They are both barred from running. There can be no debate about this.
Secondly, there must be strict budget constrictions for the candidates who run. Because the prospect of holding another mammoth money-sucking election like the one we just had is incredibly distasteful to most of us living ordinary, financially strapped lives, we must limit how much money they can raise and spend. The most prudent suggestion I have is that we limit the amount that candidates can spend to the amount of their four year salary as would-be president. That would give each candidate a max budget of just $1,600,000.
Third, mainstream corporate media must give each candidate identical free advertising opportunities. They cannot charge a penny, and the restrictions are that each candidate gets a total of 10 one-minute commercials to be aired nationally during prime time television. Candidates can use their budgets to produce their commercials, but airing them would be done pro bono by the major networks. Each wave of ads will run concurrently on the same nights so no candidate benefits by better placement. Voters will only have to endure ten days on which these commercials will run.
Fourth, the campaign should not include a primary. In order to accommodate more than one candidate per party in the general election, ranked choice voting will be utilized. With that mechanism in place, the entire campaign will take five months. Every candidate may take place in the general election if they choose, or they could drop out if they decide they aren’t competitive. Ranked choice voting will give voters the chance to rank their first, second and third preferences for president. If no candidate gets a majority of first place votes, the candidate with the least is disqualified and the voters who selected that candidate will have their second place choices tallied in the total of first place votes. In this way, whoever gets the most votes from all voters is the winner, and lesser evil strategies become irrelevent.
Fifth, any use of social media “bots” will disqualify any candidate employing them.
Sixth, there will be five presidential debates, held in regions representing the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. Debates will be moderated by committee. Each debate will have a unique committee of moderators from the region where the debate is held. Moderators must be regional journalists with annual incomes of less than $100,000 per year.
Seventh, party affiliation will be irrelevant. There will be no restrictions of third party candidates’ participation in the election. Other than the standard age and citizenship requirements, candidates will be required to produce a petition of no less than 100,000 signatures in order to enter the race. Any candidate who meets these requirements will be able to advance to the general election if they choose.
To reiterate an earlier point, no money other than their allotted $1,600,000 may be spent by any candidate once they’ve joined the election. There will be no Super PACs or billionaire donors or anything of the sort. The budget is the same for each candidate and spending will be monitored by the public and the FEC via a website that shows expenditures of every candidate. Any money not spent during the campaign must be refunded at the end of the election. Any money spent for anything but strict campaign purposes will be required to be refunded by the end of the campaign. If not, the candidate will be arrested and charged with larceny and corruption.
That’s it. Certainly this is a reach for our ethically challenged culture, and the odds against it happening this way are astronomically high. Of course, the odds against us promoting the two most disliked presidential candidates in American history were pretty high too, but we managed it.
If we really want to defy the odds of an American political apocalypse, we’re going to have to do something bold…and sane.