This one tip from Sudbury could save American democracy

Associated School: 

[Ed: We, as a school, do not take any position on the candidates in any election.]

The 2016 presidential election has delivered us many novelties and peculiarities, and its outcome will likewise be historically notable, whatever it is, and will surely deserve prime real estate in all of Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not museums.  Many political scientists believe the candidates for the two major parties are, as a pair, the most disliked by the American citizenry in any presidential election to date.  This aspect of the election, however, is not novel, and people have been griping loudly about it for several decades already.  Take this 1987 quotation from Hedley Donovan, then editor in chief of Time magazine, for example:   

How did the machinery for identifying potential presidents, nominating candidates, and choosing winners come to be so seriously out of sync with what the electorate itself sees as the modern requirements of the office. From this literate democratic society of 236 million people, compare the political leadership we are now producing with ...the leadership of the 13 colonies in the late 18th century.  For all its familiarity, the point is still a painful one - from 3 million people living on the edge of a wilderness, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, the Adamses.

The only difference these days is that it’s been going on for quite a bit longer, and therefore it’s gotten worse.  There is some good news, though, which is that it would be really simple to make it a whole lot better all at once (the bad news, of course, is that simple does not mean “easy”).  The Republic would be well served to take a page from the representative democracy practiced at Sudbury schools and implement a version of one of our basic electoral procedures.

One of the basic rights students at HVSS have is that of choosing the school’s staff members - and what other adults get to visit on a regular basis for any reason.  This is foundational to ensuring that the school belong ultimately to the students.  The process of “electing” staff is reenacted every spring, and all candidates, whether new or returning, go through it each time.  After vetting and evaluation, the first step is called the “YES/NO Vote,” in which school meeting members vote “yes” or “no” for each candidate.  Receiving more “yeses” than “nos” does not guarantee a job; rather, it certifies that the candidate is qualified and approved by the School Meeting to be on staff.  This step represents ultimate veto authority, because theoretically it’s possible that none of the candidates are elected, and the school would be compelled to recruit a fresh batch.  In other words, it’s not possible for our students to be stuck with a “lesser of two evils” situation - they have the authority to elect only candidates they actually approve.  

If our presidential ballots this November included a “None of the Above” option, there’s a chance a wide cross-section of Americans could get behind it, effectively hitting a “reset” button on this election and forcing party machinery to produce more desirable candidates.  That would be simple, and it would go a long way to ensuring that the Republic belongs, after all, to us.

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