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Saturday, July 05, 2003

Recalls and Republican Government- This Jonah Goldberg piece (thanks to Josh for the link) has one redeeming feature-the appropriate use of "atomic wedgie" in political discourse. However, this praise doesn't extend to the following logic.
Punishing voters for their poor decisions is vital because that's the only thing that imbues voting with any significance. Politicians, particularly liberal ones like Howard Dean, like to shout about how voters "have the power" to change things and how people have to take their obligation to vote seriously. Well, that's really only true if their votes have lasting effects. If voters think they'll get a "do-over" if it turns out they made a mistake, voting really won't matter that much. Any teacher will tell you that students don't show their best effort if they know the test or the term paper won't be graded. Any teacher will tell you that students - of any age - won't hand in their reports if there isn't a serious deadline and serious consequences for those who miss the deadline. The same thing holds true for elections. The date itself is insignificant, but it's vital that a firm date is set. And, if you vote wrong or miss the vote entirely, you can't have a do-over or the whole thing becomes meaningless.
I don't want to plug for parliamentary government, but you can function fairly nicely with flexible election dates. In countries like Britain and Canada, governments have five-year terms, but can call elections earlier than five years. Often, a popular government will call an early election at the three or four year mark in order to take advantage of good poll numbers to lock-in another five-year term; wouldn't Dubya like that option right now? Alternatively, early elections can result when a coalition government falls apart. The Iron Lady managed to run Britain with flexible election dates. Blair and Chretien may not be poster boys for fully functioning governments, but things don't fall apart when you don't have elections every four years on the dot. I'm going to part company with Josh and Jonah and tell California to give the Gray Gentleman his Atomic Wedgie. Five years is enough.

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