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The Milton Measure

Let’s Elect The Cabinet!

by Ned Sheehan on Friday, February 10th, 2017

Would you vote for Betsy DeVos to be our next Secretary of Education? For Ben Carson to be our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Probably not. I know I wouldn’t. On the other hand, I would definitely vote for Mad Dog Mattis at Defence. But the thing is, we have no vote on the cabinet. In fact, we don’t have a clue who will go into the cabinet on election day. And that is frankly absurd. The cabinet isn’t just an advisory team — their management of the various departments they control will have major long-term impacts on our country. So here is a modest proposal: why don’t we vote on the members of our cabinet?

In many other countries, even though cabinets aren’t directly elected, citizens usually know in advance who will be in them. The party leaders (who will become Prime Minister or equivalent if elected) name the people who will be in their cabinet if elected (often months in advance). Why isn’t that the case here? Because of party politics. Back in the days when nominations were won at a convention full of party insiders (not by a direct vote from the party membership), politicians often got the nod because they had enticed party officials with cabinet positions. They didn’t want to openly announce this, of course, because doing so would make these corrupt bargains readily apparent. This tradition continued because the precedent of announcing who would form a cabinet was never established. So now, we vote blind to who will be controlling departments with a major reach over our day-to-day lives.

But I think that we should go further than just knowing who the cabinet will be. We should be able to vote, both in the primaries and in the general election, on who will fill the cabinet. That way, one person — the President — wouldn’t be omnipotent in choosing the people who will help run our country. Primaries could be held on the same day across the nation, by ranked choice (and this should be the set up for presidential primaries as well), and the election of these spots (which could be done by popular vote, since an electoral college is needed for the presidency) could be right on the ballot with the presidential one. This would ensure accountable, elected cabinet members. Meanwhile, the President would still be able to choose a Chief of Staff and a team of advisers to work with. To not pass such a piece of legislation would be ridiculous, as it would perpetuate a system in which accountable leadership is valued less than partisan expediency.


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Posted by Ned Sheehan on Feb 10 2017. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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