Well, I stand corrected.
As regular readers know, I have long been an advocate for elections. Electing school superintendents. Electing the state attorney general. Electing Supreme Court justices as the constitution stipulates.
But I confess my eyes have been opened by the opponents of these elections.
I've been covering politics for 40 years but I was too naive to realize that subjecting yourself to an election turned you into an ass-kissing tool of special interests. I did not realize that all the politicians I have liked and respected over the years had so little moral character that a campaign contribution turned them into whores.
It turns out, according to all the "best" people, that elections are corrupting and that public positions are just too important to allow the people to fill them through a "popularity contest." It's just better to let a small group of the "best" people get in a back room and decide who holds these jobs. Subjecting these candidates to the scrutiny of an election campaign, political opponents, and the press is just disruptive.
It appears that lawyers who might be appeals court judges or attorney general are the most susceptible to corruption. It seems odd that the guardians of the law are the most susceptible to corruption. Evidently they no longer teach ethics in law school—though they do have that pesky canon of ethics. But taking a campaign contribution evidently creates moral blindness and judges immediately start offering decisions to the highest bidder.
In that spirit and with the zeal of a new convert, I propose that we just haven't gone far enough. We had a very expensive gubernatorial election campaign last year; we do it every four years. When these candidates run, they accept contributions from a wide variety of people. How corrupt can you get?
I think we change the constitution and allow the Legislature to appoint the governor. They already appoint the lieutenant governor.
Just think how much better it will be. We can do a nationwide search, hire consultants (creating jobs), and appoint just the right person. We don't have to stay in-state. Remember that our last two governors moved to Tennessee as adults. We could go hire Jeb Bush. Maybe we could get Bill Clinton to come out of retirement. The sky's the limit. We'd have to pay more of course. But we could offer to pay the appointed governor as much as, say, an appointed school superintendent.
The flaw in the plan might be that the governor would be picked by elected members of the General Assembly. But we have to start somewhere. And state legislators are made of stern stuff. In the immortal words of legendary California House Speaker Jesse Unruh on serving in the Legislature: "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, and then vote against them, you have no business up here."
But not all legislators are an incorruptible as Unruh. If we discover that legislators do indeed stay bought by their campaign contributions, we will just have to start appointing them as well. But who would do it? Well, I'm sure the local Chamber of Commerce would be willing to provide a committee—Leadership graduates all—to make the picks. Just think. No more legislators that appeal to the average voter and might not take orders to do the right thing.
An elected school superintendent might want to please voters all across the county, to ensure reelection. So he/she might be receptive to building a school where needed, rather than having a coalition of school board members from more well-to-do areas gang up to build schools in their districts and screw poor neighborhoods.
Democracy is messy. It causes people to show up in groups and raise hell, it causes angst among public officials, and it often leads to the implementation of the popular will rather than the agenda of a sound, sensible group of people who ought to be running things if only they had time to run for office.