An opinion piece in the Washington Post offered up an interesting idea (emphasis mine):
“With Barack Obama and John McCain in the White House, 2009 was a pivotal year in American politics. Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a jobs bill, close Guantanamo and end the recession. Obama rallied liberals behind a version of McCain’s health-care voucher program, providing insurance to everyone, while McCain found enough GOP votes to push the DREAM Act through Congress.”
The idea is pretty simple: instead of one president have two. Each party puts forth their best candidate. They have equal power and work as a team to get things done. They have an incentive to get things done because as the author says, they want to leave a legacy. No president wants to be remembered as the guy that didn’t accomplish anything.
Ignoring some of the obvious differences such as what to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, this idea of a co-presidency is at least interesting and deserves a few moments of thought. The intrinsic incentive to want to get stuff done would exist, but the idea falls apart the more the guy who thought of it explains it.
David Orentlicher explains this idea came to him while working as a state representative in Indiana. He believed that bipartisan nature of our political system was flawed at a structural level. He’s absolutely right, but his solution is so wrong.
While in a perfect world a co-presidency could work as the paragraph at the top lays out. But we know that isn’t going to happen when the presidents meet with Russian officials, or decide on sanctions for Iran. Worse though, Orentlicher identifies the problem (structural issues with our political system) but proposes a radical solution that isn’t likely to fix the problem. The problem exists within Congress. As Orentlicher said, people want to leave a legacy. But without term limits Congress has no incentive to cooperate.
If the system is broken putting two guys in charge isn’t going to fix it. Just ask RIM, maker of the Blackberry. To truly fix the system you need to go to the root of the problem, and that’s ineptitude at the presidential level.
That comes down solely on Congress. The White House doesn’t matter. Congress doesn’t need party leadership, they need a reason to get stuff done. In order for that to happen we need to change the way they raise money, and put in term limits. Only then will Congress care, as Orentlicher points out for the president, about leaving a legacy.
Image: Chesi – Fotos CC