Our political system is a mess, and there’s no shortage of cockamamie ideas being bandied about to fix it. From electoral reforms like open primaries and ranked-choice voting to major constitutional revisions like the elimination of the Electoral College and term limits, Americans are grasping at straws to find a better way to govern ourselves.
One such silly idea was posited to me by a friend the other day — the idea of a unity ticket for president, with Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Mitt Romney.
After thinking about this for a few days now, I’ve grown to really like the idea. And though it likely won’t happen, I’m starting to believe it actually could work.
American politics is driven now by the extremes. But the mass of the electorate does not occupy the far left or far right. The new “silent majority” exists in the center. Moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats now have more in common with each other than either has in common with the fringe elements of their own parties.
Removing the tribal line between moderate Republicans and Democrats could be like opening a dam. A Biden/Romney ticket could actually create a consensus majority government that actually represents the interests of most Americans.
Both Romney and Biden have shown themselves to be statesmen throughout their careers, and they both emanate a level of respect for the nation and for the political process that is sorely lacking in today’s political arena.
And the concept of base-driven elections would evaporate in the face of a unity ticket. Instead of the big parties driving angry voters to the polls, our political discussion could focus on ideas that a majority of voters agree with.
Our electoral system favors political parties, so getting a third party or independent bid on the ballot in 50 states would be a challenge. However, Romney and Biden have both built massive electoral infrastructures already, and both could attract the most talented political teams in the business. A Biden/Romney campaign could be the most impressive array of experienced professionals ever assembled in American politics.
Of course, the big question is — how would a bipartisan team actually govern if they won?
Here’s how it could work: Instead of a partisan executive branch that teams up with their party in Congress to push policies, a Biden/Romney administration would introduce policy initiatives they both agree on first.
Before a Biden/Romney health care plan would move into the legislative process, for instance, the two men and their staffs would craft it together. The horse-trading and compromise would happen at the source. No ideas entrenched in partisan ideology would survive this initial crucible.
Imagine what this would mean to the entire process of government. Instead of developing policy to satisfy the fringe elements, this administration would begin the entire process by compromising to satisfy the majority of Americans.
Instead of partisans rushing to fill executive branch positions, a functional, bipartisan bureaucracy would be put into place that anticipates the dangers of partisanship and begins with the concept of consensus as a requirement.
The end result would be a government that actually represents the interests of most Americans. We haven’t had that in a long time. And at the rate we’re going, we’ll likely have less and less of a consensus government with each passing cycle.
Of course this concept is basically science fiction. The political parties have too much at stake to allow any kind of unity ticket to form. But a bipartisan executive branch is a fascinating idea, and one that’s worth chewing on before we consider tinkering with things like Electoral College reform or term limits.
It’s quite possible that the underpinnings of our system are less flawed than the people who are engaged in it. And perhaps, with elected officials like Romney and Biden, who seem willing to actually lead in the face of a deteriorating political process, we’d find the government our founders envisioned has been here all along.