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Jim Lichtman Headshot

The Way Things Ought to Be

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I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of the current process used to elect public officials.

Local, state, national, it makes no difference. The process is far too long, uses questionable "facts," relies on negative campaigning and wastes too damn much money.

How much? According to the U.K.s Guardian, the Obama presidential campaign, including the transition and inauguration spent close to $1 billion. If you Google search Senate, House and Governor Seats you'll find a lot of out-of-whack numbers as well.

While this is the reality we live in, I don't think we should settle for this. So, I've come up with a list of proposals to the process that, I believe, would bring a lot more clarity as well as sanity to the whole business of elections.

  1. Each candidate running for president would be permitted to raise and spend no more than $75 million each. The only money spent on a given candidate must come directly from the campaign itself. Absolutely NO outside groups.
  2. Each candidate gets 10 paid television commercials and 10 paid radio ads. If you can't make your pitch to the voter over the course of 10, thirty-second ads how can you explain anything to people who spend much of their time preoccupied with Dancing with the Stars or Real Housewives of D.C.?
  3. Every ad must submit to a fact-check 30-days in advance of broadcast. If it doesn't check out, the ad gets tossed and you've lost one of your ten.
  4. No personal, negative ads. Want to talk about the distinctions between which policies or legislation you support vs. your opponent, fine. All personal attacks are off limits, period.
  5. The campaign season would be limited to the three months leading up to Election Day.
  6. Each candidate for office must contribute to a generic, voter pamphlet sent out to all voters, at government expense, detailing their qualifications in clear and concise language that spells out exactly what they stand for and why.
  7. Each candidate for office must be available for three televised debates that cover a range of issues obtained from surveys by voters as to what they, the voters, consider most important. The panel of questioners will be comprised of two journalists and one well-informed citizen.
  8. After each debate, Politifact.com will fact-check each candidate, then compile a scorecard as to who got it right and who got it wrong.
  9. A version of these same steps would apply to Senate and House races, as well as state and local officials.
  10. Let the public decide who the best candidate is for the job and vote accordingly.

Perfect? Probably not.

My revisions would not stop pundits and others from saying anything they like about a candidate from either party. I may be naïve, but with trust in individuals and institutions at an all time low, what we need most is a Consumer Reports approach to navigate the maze of conflicting and derogatory information that bombards the voting public and separate what's important from what is not.

We may have the right to vote our conscience, but as citizens, we also have a responsibility to look beyond our own self-interests, and judge the issues and the individuals on the facts in the context of overall public good.

Comments, suggestions, fire away.

Jim Lichtman writes and speaks on ethics. His commentaries can be found as ethicsStupid.com.