Reforming the transition of power aspects of the Constitution
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Mon Nov 7 00:38:43 PST 2005
Ilya writes (as part of his very interesting posting):
2. The presidential transition period, and whether it should be shortened.
Sandy may be right that it should be. In parliamentary systems, the transition period often lasts only a week or two. However, there are 2 countervailing considerations. First, in a parliamentary system, the opposition party generally has a "shadow cabinet" all set to go long before the election. So they don't need much time to choose ministers. That is not true of US presidential candidates, for the good reason that we don't even know who the candidate will be until not long before the election, and there are good reasons not to choose cabinet members while the election is going on. Second, the US government has many more political appointees that need to be changed during a transition than most parliamentary systems do. it takes time to pick these people, get them confirmed, and so on.
I think this is a very good example of how structures shape politics. Ilya is absolutely right that we vote for presidential candidates in the dark re their actual Administrations. I'm not sure why he is confident there are "good reasons" to have such a system. Might not the voteres have been interested in finding out that John Ashcroft would become AG (or Colin Powell Sec. of State), etc? I don't know that we have to go all the way to "shadow governments," but there's certainly something to be said for that practice, at least if one views elections as choosing a government instead of anointing a quasi-monarch who has free rein to appoint whomever he pleases.. Given that running for President has become (at least) a two-year -ong full-time job, I think it would be healthy for the political system if we expected presidential candidates to announce, by, say, October 1, whom they hoped to place in their Administration if elected. (This would allow some post-convention bargaining re supporters of losing candidates, etc.) In any event, I am confident that if we had a shorter transition period, historically, then our politics would have been shaped accordingly., and I tend to think for the better.
One might respond, of course, that one finds the same sort of process in parliamentary systems with coalition governments. I.e., the prime minister (call him Ariel Sharon) desperately tries to put together a winning coalition within the parliament, and no one knows who is going to fill any given post until the majority is achieved. Perhaps this counts as an argument against parliamentarianism. I certainly don't think there's such an animal as a "perfect" governmental system. All involve sometimes anguishing tradeoffs.
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