Sunday, January 4, 2009

For Senate Vacancies, Call Special Elections!

Residents of New York and Illinois are both facing the replacement of their Senators. Barack Obama is soon to take office as President, and Hillary Clinton is likely to be Secretary of State in his administration.

Senators are under normal circumstances elected by the people directly. It is only when a sitting Senator leaves office or dies before the completion of his term that the governor of the state he represents steps in and names a replacement.

Governor Blagojevich has remained in office with a cloud of corruption swirling around him far longer than had been expected. His audacity in refusing to step down has been unsurpassed in American politics. Only Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel has managed to exceed Blagojevich’s political longevity, hanging on to his post even as the cloud of corruption swirling around him thickens daily.

Blagojevich’s last act of arrogance was to insist on naming Obama’s successor in the Senate. Most commentators have felt that this appointment should have been left to Blago’s successor. I feel that it should have been left to the people of Illinois.

Two and a half months is a long enough time for a quick election. Those who are positioned to float their names quickly can do so. It is a bit unfair because a regular election would allow more of a chance to longshot candidates with less money. Despite this, a direct election is a lot fairer than appointment by the governor.

Here in New York State, you would never know that the next Senator is being chosen to represent the people of the state. The candidates are described as going to meet with the governor. They talk with high officials. They do not address the people. They do not face the people in any meaningful way. We hear coaxing words from Mayor Bloomberg to appoint Caroline Kennedy as our next Senator. It seems pretty certain that the fix is in. People who go against him have a way of falling silent when Mike Bloomberg whips out his checkbook.

Are we talking about the issues facing New York as a financial crisis drags on? The New York Post had the following to say in its profound coverage of the Senate vacancy.

“The move makes official what some family members had been urging Kennedy to do for weeks.

She decided to make a push for the job due, in part, to her kids being nearly grown up, sources said.

But shortly after word emerged she was interested, some Democrats, former Clinton boosters among them, questioned Kennedy’s qualifications.

Kennedy’s boosters are quick to point to her training as a lawyer.”

OK let’s get this straight. Her kids are like um , you know almost grown up. And her uncle Ted thinks she should like become a Senator. She’s like all alone in the house with the kids out you know… So why can’t she become like a Senator or something? I mean, she talked with her family. What more need be said?

And she’s a lawyer! Like wow ! We have so many lawyers in New York. We have to start training them in other useful occupations. So why not like get her a job in the Senate?

I think that all of this discussion is wasting our time. In Vatican City, when a Pope dies, they have a papal conclave. At the end of each day, if a pope has not been chosen, a fire is lit in the Vatican. If the new Pope has not been chosen, the smoke is black. If he has been chosen, then the smoke is white.

Why don’t we have the same system for Senators? Let’s just look over the governor’s mansion at the end of the day. If they have chosen the Senator, then the smoke will be white and we can all celebrate the appointment of our new leader.

On a more serious and less sarcastic note, it is interesting to note how quickly and eagerly those who purport to be our representatives rush to take away the people’s right to choose. The veneer of respect for the wishes of the people is very thin, and it’s starting to flake.

There are very few persuasive reasons for a Senator to be appointed. The public should be given every possible opportunity to influence and change the tone of government. In the future, unless only a few months remain in a Senator’s term, a vacancy created by their death or resignation should be filled by a popular vote. It’s only fair.

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