by Frances Edstrom
I guess it is about time for me to once again propose my idea for filling what are now elected positions all over this great country of ours. It’s pretty obvious that there are major problems with the system as it is now.
Just look at Minnesota. All the ballots from the November elections are being recounted because the Coleman-Franken race was so close. It’s still close, and unless the candidates agree to job-share, I predict that there will be lawsuits flying all over the place no matter what the results.
How about New York, where the governor will have to appoint someone to fill Sen. Hillary Clinton’s seat when she becomes Secretary of State in the Obama cabinet. He can choose from a nice long list of folks who want to be in the Senate without having to be elected, including Caroline Kennedy and Bill Clinton.
Then of course there’s Illinois, where Gov. Blagojevich (it doesn’t take much to become a household name these days) has appointed a replacement for President-elect Obama’s senate seat that will most likely be challenged. But that’s the least of his problems, as he faces corruption charges and impeachment.
Let’s get back to Minnesota, though. If you’ve followed the recount and seen photos of some of the ballots that the recounters have to figure out, it would appear that we have a few Minnesotans who are… Gee, I can’t think of a polite word for it, but they seem to have been incapable of using a pencil to fill in a little oval next to a candidate’s name.
And in Winona County the board wants to be able to appoint three positions that have been traditionally elected.
So I humbly submit my idea, which I first proposed on these pages many years ago. But now I have some subtle upgrades that I will also share with you.
I think we should hold a lottery to fill every government position that is now elected. People like lotteries. It’s that “anybody has a chance” feeling that really grabs ‘em, so I bet there’d be a huge audience for the actual selection process. Media networks could bid on the airing, sort of like the Olympics and the Super Bowl, and the money could go to the federal deficit. Same thing for state and local races, the money going to those coffers. I suppose it isn’t fair that the little races — township officers and such — wouldn’t get much. But they’re used to that.
The Selective Service System would be expanded from registering all males when they turn eighteen to registering women as well. Everyone would be assigned a number. People wouldn’t want to register twice or register dead people, because there’d be no incentive. If we think that not everyone would be capable of holding office on the national, state or local level, there could be a brief test for eligibility. I suggest people be required to use a pencil to fill in an oval printed on a piece of paper. Naturally, there would be alternative tests for those who would be physically unable to take that one.
Then The Lottery would be held every two years (if two years is long enough for Minnesota state representatives and the Wisconsin Assembly, it should be long enough for the rest of the government). Numbers would be drawn and the winners announced.
Instead of setting salaries for these government positions, the winners would be paid whatever they made in the private sector in the previous year. The president would get to live in the White House, and governors in the Governor’s Mansions, just so they wouldn’t be turned into student housing, and elementary school kids would have a place to visit on field trips. The rest of the people could live at home and travel, or there could be dormitories established for U.S. Senators and Congressmen. The government would pay for that, because it wouldn’t be fair for people making $10 an hour to have to buy airline tickets all the time or drive a ‘92 Chevy pickup from Utica to Washington D.C. Of course your job would have to be given back to you when your term is up.
My idea has many advantages
• No interminable campaigns
• No cronyism
• No lifers in government seats
• It would save us money
• It could have unexpected benefits. For instance, if a plumber gets to be president, think of all the money we could save on unplugging toilets at the CIA after agents flush their secret notes
• It would bring real people into government, not just the enormously wealthy or influential — think of the new ideas! Think of the questions they would ask!
• It would give new meaning to the phrase “In America, anyone can grow up to be President”
The only trouble is, I’m not sure how to get these reforms enacted. Certainly Congress wouldn’t approve it. Who would vote to give up a cushy job like that in favor of your old neighbor in Peterson? Maybe I’ll send this to the new president. This would really be Change with a capital “C”!