In 2012, more than 125 million Americans cast ballots in an election that only served to create greater partisan divisions, increase gridlock, and generally make the President Obama’s life more difficult.
His forward-looking agenda continues to take a back seat to petty grievances. One hundred and twenty-five million may sound like a lot of voters, but that’s still less than 40 percent of the population of the United States, and less than one-tenth the population of China. Voter turnout was even lower than it was during the historic 2008 election, despite the fact that outside spenders spent nearly three times as much on partisan attack ads.
There was a time when presidential elections made sense—at our nation’s founding, everyone agreed George Washington should be president, so he ran unopposed and was elected unanimously. Most people agree that he was one of the greatest presidents of all time. After that, politicians began to run for president against each other, forever burdening the American people with a decision that many would rather someone else make on their behalf. Centuries later, presidential elections no longer make sense.
Presidential elections, like midterm elections, aren’t just unnecessary–they’re harmful to American politics. We should get rid of them entirely.
In 2008, voters were given a choice to elect the first black president in our nation’s history, or to elect another white guy who "served in the military."
What if they had made the wrong choice? And what if, in 2016, America is denied the opportunity to celebrate the election of its first female president, simply because a majority of Americans "voted" to elect someone else? This is a world our founders could not have imagined (literally–then, women were not even allowed to vote).
Here in Carson City, I can walk into my neighborhood grocery store and purchase whichever brand of "ranch" dressing I like. No one else gets a vote. Could the framers of our Constitution have imagined something like "ranch" dressing would ever exist? I have been buying the same brand of "ranch" dressing (Ken’s) for as long as I can remember (about 12 years). I assume my fellow Americans are no different in this regard. So what, exactly, is the point of holding a competition every four years to determine who runs the country?
The main impact of the presidential election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation. In 2008 and 2012, for example, President Obama was forced to campaign for the votes of people who didn’t necessarily support his entire agenda, and in Midwestern states where voters aren’t as sophisticated. Obama won Florida on both occasions, but do we really want to live in a country where Florida can determine the outcome of presidential elections? I didn’t think so.
The realities of the modern election cycle are such that presidents are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time raising money for their reelection campaign. Most of the money is sought from wealthy, educated individuals who, for the most part, know what’s best for the country. But while these individuals may give millions to political campaigns and causes, they are only given one vote in return. That's a shame. In fact, it's borderline inhumane.
Presidents are people too, and at least some of the time Obama has spent at fundraisers or holding campaign rallies for low-information voters could have been spent hanging out and watching ESPN or grilling out with his buddies. Sadly, it has been nearly a decade since he has published a new memoir. Becoming president doesn't make someone any less of a human being/fantastic writer.
Doing away with presidential elections altogether would allow the most enlightened members of our society to tackle the serious, long-term issues that most people don’t even realize they should care about (climate change, Fox News, late-term abortion, etc.) without fear of retribution at the ballot box.
Elections, by their very nature, are polarizing events. We can do better. Youth sports leagues across the country have done the right thing by eliminating the concepts of "winners" and "losers." Getting rid of elections could help inspire a renewed sense of unity among the population.
At the very least, it would be one small step on the path to fixing our broken system.
F. Giles Rockecharlie is a sophomore at the Richard M. Nixon preparatory school in Carson City, Nevada.