The Opinion page on Dec. 28 carried an interesting piece authored by Adlai E. Stevenson III (No. 3). The headline, “Our political system urgently needs an overhaul. Start with these 7 steps,” inspired interest. Two things compelled me to read on: the truth of the first sentence and I remember when Adlai E. Stevenson II (No. 2) ran against Dwight D. Eisenhower for president in 1952 and 1956. Who wouldn’t agree with the suggested overhaul? Additionally, I’ve associated the name Adlai Stevenson with reasonable competence. Prior to reading the article, I didn’t know there were multiple Adlais. No. 2 (No. 3’s father) was a one-term Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate for the Democrats — twice defeated by Eisenhower.
I had no knowledge of the author (No. 3), so I dug a little. The first issue that caught my attention was his age. He is 89 years old. He could be the poster child of “the old white guy” that Democrats love to deride. He is a former two-term U.S. senator (retired in 1974) and the chair of the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy (whatever that is). His father, No. 2, is the one who attained a level of national fame, as noted above.
The impression conveyed by No. 3’s article is that it was prompted by his party’s loss of the last presidential election. The second paragraph, however, provided hope that a fair and impartial rendering was to follow. It began, “It’s time to respond with reform of American politics and government …” Good grief! Even Donald Trump and an untold number of Americans agree with that assessment. Hope was quickly dashed, however, with the author’s first suggestion: “Abolish the Electoral College.” OK. There they go again — same old, same old. If they can’t win under long- and well-established procedures, they want to change the rules — actually, the U.S. Constitution.
The desire to eliminate the Electoral College indicates that No. 3 is ignorant of or has ignored the logic and reasoning of the Founders. Perhaps he’s forgotten. Perhaps he’s been convinced by those less knowledgeable. Perhaps he thinks the Founders were a bunch of thoughtless amateurs. There is not room here to discuss the reasoning behind the Electoral College, but there are thousands of pages written by those far more qualified than I. Anyone who is of the opinion that the Electoral College needs to be eliminated needs to familiarize themselves with the theory, background and the Founders’ arguments for the institution. Simply put, the president is elected to represent the entire country, not just isolated pockets such as the West Coast, the Northeast and a few other spots.
To his credit, No. 3 offered a few good suggestions. One was getting big money out of politics, but good luck with that. I can’t see either party getting behind that one. He also suggested reforms in the redistricting of legislative districts — and an end to gerrymandering. Surely he’ll get the support of every Republican in Maryland on that one.
No. 3 suggests the elimination of election of judges, stating, “The United States is one of the very few nations who elect judges.” First, he needs to be reminded that our form of government was the first of its kind — anywhere. We are, and have been, unique. The fact that our practices differ should not come as a surprise. It seems that he wants judges to be appointed and declares that such would “enhance the quality of ... judiciaries.” Appointment by politicians will be an improvement? Not even going there.
He also mentioned that we should “Reduce the number of elected offices ...” This sounds tempting — like reducing the size of government. What was left unsaid is the likelihood that such a move would increase the size of the unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy.
His sixth suggestion was illuminating because it pretty much identified his target audience. He wrote, “Strengthen party organization and leadership.” Is there anyone who suspects that his advice was intended for non-Democrats?
As another “old white guy” (but a decade younger than No. 3), I commend his effort to improve his party’s position with a public statement that can be examined. However, as a former student of political science and having been long exposed to the theory behind the Electoral College, I must admit to a bias against anyone who urges its elimination. Such people are shortsighted — or perhaps equitable systems annoy them.
Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.