Americans Pick Wrong President–Again
Brad DeLong thinks we need a different system for picking presidents. Analyzing presidential elections since 1972, he finds a disturbing trend:
The pattern is clear: when there isn’t an unknown southern governor running, an incumbent president can win reelection or an incumbent vice president can win election; but the unknown southern governor without a national political record wins the presidency–always.
Why? Because he is a governor, he can raise money. Because he is unknown, he has no enemies in Washington who inform the press corps of weaknesses. Because he has no record, nobody has an incentive to try to block him. Because he is southern, the south tends to vote for him.
The problem is that being an unknown southern governor has next to nothing to do with being an effective president. Of the unknown southern governors who have run since 1972, we’ve been lucky once–Bill Clinton was a good president. We’ve been unlucky three times: Carter, Reagan, and George W. Bush were, none of them, up to the job.
Brad doesn’t suggest an alternative model. There’s no argument for doing away with the Electoral College, switching to a parliamentary system, or any of the usual ideas. Given that two of the three presidents that Brad found not “up to the job” were comfortably re-elected by the American people, though, the new system would apparently need to be one that did not involve the American people choosing their own presidents. Perhaps we could, instead, have tenured faculty at our elite universities do the picking?