Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Michael Vazquez Headshot

On the Appointment of Caroline Kennedy, or Any Other Non-Elected Individual to Fill the New York Senate Vacancy

Posted: Updated:
Print

I think that any failure on the part of Governor Paterson and our state government to reflect our essential identity as a representative constitutional democracy, by filling the vacant senatorial seat with any personnel outside of a mandate-qualified pool of elected officials, albeit officials holding lower state office, is to my feeble mind, founded on a primitive presumption which grievously suspends -- however well intended -- the democratic value, the moral imperative, and, I'll claim herein, the constitutionally binding imperative to ensure that there be a civic line of succession -- just as there is a line of succession for the President which insists by design, and with no small solemnity, that the replacement process reflect a people's mandate. And while the constitution does recognize the value of an un-elected appointee within the line of succession, it is only after going through a triple redundancy of elected public servants, that it arrives upon the uniquely appointed Secretary of State. Only after going though 3 elected public servants.

Of course, the senatorial selection process in this case is ultimately dependent on the prudence of the acting Governor, upon whom it is incumbent -- though he himself an appointee be -- to ensure that there is a mandate behind the replacement.

It is time for the Governor and the Attorney General to hold an examination of the state constitution that may require an amendment creating a line of succession through a lineage of elected officials holding lower office.

President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, in its mastery of the myriad intricacies of our electoral process, created a strategy which has helped citizens re-discover and re-examine participatory democracy in America, and Caroline Kennedy is to be commended for her efforts to boost participation, and for her own civic-mindedness. But if she wants to be senator - even if, like the many others who also want the position, she really, really believes, that she could do the job -- Ms. Kennedy must simply realize that what is being ignored with any appointment is an electoral process and its subsequent mandate, even if once-removed.

She is welcome to run for the senate in 2010, and I would give her and every other candidate, a fair listen. If she gets the Democratic nomination I'd very (very) likely vote for her over a Republican, although I'm expecting to see more independent candidates coming up, in our new political age.

But this appointment-seeking feels like a step backwards.

The scandal in Illinois over alleged attempts to sell a vacant senate seat is another alarming potential result of the growing erosion of the electoral process during the course of an appointment, and the entire process or lack thereof is in dire need of a national inventory-taking and re-vamping, with a mission toward restoring a paramount American value, even in as flawed a process as the mid-term replacement of an elected official: the public mandate.