Take-Home Examination: Section A
Through a series of conferences, preliminary debates and caucuses each of the presidential parties select chosen candidates to race in the candidacy for the President of the United States. Coined as the ‘Primary election’ in political circles across the country, this is the process through which America’s policy-conscious elite will vote in droves to secure their parties’ presidential nomination.
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With great satisfaction in the current term, I am able to observe with a considerable wealth of favourable anticipation as individual states are changing the dynamic of political precedence dramatically. The registered voters of each region cast ballots for their party’s designated nominees. Unfortunately, as national tradition would have it, primary elections have been kicked off in the state of New Hampshire since the earlier fifties. This creates a mundane and predictable succession of voter habits throughout the nation. With the current trend of excess capital and guerrilla warfare media campaigns the primary election structure has demonstrated time and time again, it’s a stronghold on influencing America’s politics.
The process dictates a lucid timeline for which the candidates are required to address the public and provide answers to the questions that will ultimately shape the policies and legislation passed during their anticipated terms as president. For the voters of this country, this proves to be an invaluable “look under the hood”. Without a solid span of time from which one can form an educated inference there is no margin for comment and would ultimately prove our founders and critics of past days true in the notion that the average American is incapable of choosing effective leaders.
Many aspiring politicians enter the primary race each year; however, there should be stricter requirements in order to minimize the number of frivolous campaigns that plague each primary election. Too often the American public is inundated with hypocrisy and double talk from race runners whose names are only in the hat to add shock value to media presence. Their presence overshadows the politicians who are purely in the race for the long haul. A wise decision on the forethought of our founding fathers currently structure only allows from the nominated individuals, one person (who is selected by the party delegates at the national conventions) to continue in the race to the White House. The voting body at a national convention is made up of delegates.
The delegates, once at a convention, vote for a candidate for the presidential election. The vice-president is also announced at the national convention. Built-in perks of the system include an informal mandate that each party’s policy platform is announced. This is essentially what each party plans to do if elected by the people. After the national conventions, the two parties’ presidential hopefuls can concentrate on campaigning for the ultimate prize in American politics. At this junction in modern American politics, this system of nominating our nation’s leaders from within the ranks of their individual parties fits the mould of 21st-century politics. It allows a firm foundation from which the American public can view each candidate and create informed opinions and inferences on the character, and policy-making decisions of each presidential hopeful. With the mainstream validity of presidential debates via podcasts and online mediums the primary process is made easily accessible to all Americans.
This changes the dynamic from the era of our founding fathers because with the free flow of information so quickly across the planet, the primary election forces the nation to generate noteworthy buzz in regards to the presidential election itself and creates certain solidarity in many American social circles. Moreover, both constitutionally on a national circuit, the system of nominating the candidates for the American President reinforces the notion that we as Americans remain steadfast in the ever-popular tradition that we have created a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In accordance with each candidate platform, the encompassing general policies to affect all Americans are found retroactively stated in the propaganda marginalized jargon of hopefuls past and present.
How does one begin to break down the construct of what Americans know to be the modern process of choosing our nation’s president? Finding the basis from which the system of Presidential election is derived brings those scholars curious enough with objective understanding to read through all research without burning down the capital to the infamous Electoral College. From what foundation do we implement this system into American political culture? Let’s examine the origins of our great country.
Where are our founding fathers? Contrary to popular speculation, within the chambers of prominence on Capitol Hill and in parlour conversation evening after evening, the men that worked so diligently to shape the country posited a popular notion of the time. “that gentlemen should not campaign for public office.” The saying was “The office should seek the man, the man should not seek the office.” (eatthestate.org) With consideration to the overarching fear of a national government whose power overextends into the boundaries of individual state’s rights, the founders set out to create an institution that ultimately represented each state proportionately. Working to create this proved to be a difficult task in itself. Simultaneously another problem that had to be solved was how to appease the states while also reflecting the will of the entire country.
Diligently Alexander Hamilton and others created a canvas with several original sketches to parlay various outcomes from scenarios proposed to reach an electoral resolution. There was a great deal of discussion on the subject of constituent competency leading to the consideration of a national election based on the popular vote.
After deciding against a popular national vote, the founders considered just having the congress or the state legislature select the president. Through a great deal of painstaking debate and defending their logic from an outcry from heavily publicized political critics, our founding fathers chose to create an institution that essentially became the birth of the Electoral College. Americas Electoral College is an intricate machine that functions by providing each state with a sound separate (assumed to be equal) vote in the election.
Americans scowl in disdain at the notion that the founders created this false balance of power to allow for an uncontested sense of equality with the federal government. Simply defined, this can be perceived as the “act” of a state conducting its own sovereign election. While the popular vote is taken into vague media polls, the true decision rests in the hands of the electors. This angers the American public in a rather blind fashion. Most suspicions arise from being constantly berated with media propaganda that the popular vote doesn’t make a difference. Election year Bush vs. Gore placed many of these fears on the combat table.
Fair distribution of the electoral votes is implemented. Even the District of Columbia is given consideration with a sensitive three electoral votes; the same as the smallest state. Although the provisions were made for every state to be allotted a specified number of electoral votes that will be cast for the presidency for consideration purposes, at best, the smallest number a state can have is posted at three. Each state is provided one vote for the purposes of division within each representative in the house and one for each of its two senators. Whichever candidate wins the popular vote in the state wins all of the electoral votes for that state.
This system discourages candidates from focusing on those states with fewer electoral votes, therefore, encouraging the candidates to only focus on approximately one-third of the country. Is it even possible for the system to serve its purpose effectively on behalf of an entire country as a whole while only focusing on the minority? With this being stated, to some critics, unfair distribution of electoral votes tends to over-represent people in rural States. Additionally, as a result of the number of representatives for each state changing each decade, coupled with an ever-growing number of constituents each election year, the number of electoral votes for each state varies from election year to year. So either Americans need to make more babies in their residential states or move to Texas like everyone else.
The question on all the skeptics’ minds is who really holds the power. Our precious electors are actually people selected for each election that theoretically vote according to the state’s popular vote. Unlike Dick and Jane or Tyrone and Keisha, the electors are typically political party loyalists or individuals that have some affiliation with the candidates. This angers a lot of people. Who chooses these privileged persons? Parties nominate electors at their state party conventions or by a vote of the party’s central committee in the state. An elector in theory could really be anyone.
Only a few regulations are outlined in the constitution as to who cannot be an elector. Obviously, they can’t be Senators or Representatives. Many critics challenge the absence of neither federal laws nor constitutional provisions to mandate electors to vote as they pledged. The freedom within this circuit allows for a margin of error, espionage, and conspiracy. Factually, a mere twenty-four of the fifty states require their electors to vote in accordance with the state’s popular vote. Sadly to the dismay of many trigger-happy political scholars, only five states possess penalties for failure to do so.
Because theory and speculation posit the notion that electors are usually party loyalists, it is rare for an elector to not vote in favour of the party who elected them to the seat of electing. In all of US history, only nine recorded such persons voted the way of the “other” party. The power still rests in the hands of the people. Our founding fathers and Article II (with consideration given to the 12th amendment) had it right the first time around. We are essentially governed by a leader of the people, chosen by the people, to govern over us people.
Throughout decades, there have been monumental exercises of leadership, compassion, and pure humility for the endorsement of the human race. Few men who have served in the role as President of the United States possess a legacy that can be considered timeless in implementation or innovative in hindsight. John F. Kennedy belongs to this league of extraordinary men. During a time of civil unrest and scathing international tensions, JFK stood at the helm of our country and embraced the challenge with a dashing demeanour synonymous with boyish good looks and a wit that resonated with emotion for America’s citizens. A prime example would be when American spy aircraft collected covert images in Cuba’s backyard military construction installations.
Intelligence brought it to the Presidents attention that the Soviets were building nuclear missile launchers in Cuba. Cuba’s communist government, led by Fidel Castro, was very friendly with the Soviet Union. President Kennedy faced a very difficult decision. Should he ignore the missiles even though they were very close to the United States? Or should he exercise American military power to encourage disarmament at the risk of starting a nuclear war? In an admirable move of not leaking a word to the press or staging a self-motivated war effort; JFK chose not to inform neither Cuba nor the Soviets of his intelligence briefings, Kennedy met in secret with his advisers for several days to discuss the situation. This was an effective strategy at best for the oval office of the day. Using tactical yet unobtrusive force JFK halted further transport of military weapons into the region. Like forming a schoolyard truce, several days later, Khrushchev, agreed to remove the missiles and bring them back to the Soviet Union.
In exchange, the United States promised not to invade Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis had nearly caused a nuclear war. At home and abroad, leaders were impressed with Kennedy’s leadership on the world stage. The following year, Kennedy and Khrushchev set up a special telephone connection between the oval office in the white house and the Soviets leaders’ office at the Kremlin in Moscow. They hoped this connection would prevent a war from the beginning by mistake.
This would put any nation in fear that you need to call another world leader just to make sure that it was an accident if the bomb went off. In August 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty that would eventually protect the world from the harmful effects of nuclear tests. A lasting phrase for humanity, JFK left us to contemplate American peace with the Soviet Union. “We all inhabit this small planet”. His impact on the foreign policy of the time set the precedent for the modern society in which we live by promoting equality, holding the constitution as the law of the land and accepting humanity as the only cause.
Known as the “Accidental President”, Gerald Ford certainly (in my opinion) lived up to his nickname. As the thirty-eighth president of the United States of America, Gerald Ford declared “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances… This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts,” upon swearing in under the oath in the office on August 9, 1974, after Nixon had resigned.
Sitting in the shadow of one of America’s greatest horrors, Ford was privileged to serve in the capacity of vice president for the previous two years under the shell of species known to all as Richard Nixon until his resignation. Without skipping a beat Ford solidified his position as a delegator by entrusting the foreign policy in the hands of the US Secretary of State, Kissinger, which gave Ford plenty of time to meet and become friends with world leaders. What kind of president dines on tea and crumpets’ without conducting any background research of his (or soon to be her?) own? Ford met with the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev and the leaders of other European nations to sign the Helsinki Accords in 1975, which recognized the existing boundaries after the second world war with an emphasis on strong states human rights, which later in the Carter term would be used to hold the Soviets responsible for their actions in the Eastern European nations were included in the accords.
This was silly because after this treaty was signed Ford called for greater increases in defence spending to throw back at his critics who said that the accords had accepted the Soviet ruling in eastern European countries. Boosting your defence budget sends a clear message to arbitrators that there is a looming conflict on the horizon. Where the Helsinki Accords presidential promise or publicity?
Disagreements dealing with limits on Soviet bombers and American cruise missiles resulted in a failure to talk about negotiating and agreeing with the Soviet Union about limiting production and deployment of nuclear weapons. Moves like this lead me to question the set role of priority versus appeasement in the Ford administration. What was he thinking? Come on now Mr. President, negating the opportunity to discuss whether or not the deployment of nuclear weapons is permissible? That is complete absurdity.
The communist armies of Laos, South Vietnam, and Cambodia consolidated their ruling over all of Indochina during President Ford’s term. In 1974 he asked for an infusion to help aid the Southern Vietnam troops to fight back against a major offensive force in the north. The US congress turned this down and refused to honour a commitment made by the notorious former president, Richard Nixon to help the South in case of a backdoor invasion. Instead of holding America responsible and following through with the presidential policies of prior administrations (regardless of leadership incompetency), Ford had little choice but to order the evacuation of all of the American troops as communist troops seized on Saigon in 1975.
The north had penetrated the entire South within days. Khmer Rouge, Cambodian communists, charged an American cargo ship with its thirty-eight American crew on board. Like Thursday nights in Bowen hall, the president mandated a commando raid to release the crew. In the raid, forty-five Americans were killed on the island of Koh Tang. Kissinger and Ford showed the return of the ship as a victory on the US’s part which led to Ford gaining more public support.
A prime example of the right time, not so right however effective president; Gerald Ford demonstrated poise security within his leadership that leads me to question my personal theories as to whether or not he will inevitably be considered a great president further down the road. Just kidding, I mean come on, he wasn’t even re-elected. Doom, doom, doom to the end of political time.
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