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Author Topic: A New System for Choosing Political Candidates
KnightEnder
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Daruma's thread considering the next candidate for president, possibly a relation of one of the former presidents, brought this idea to my mind. (Once again Daruma forces me to think. I swear one day I will get him for that. [Smile] )

Wouldn't it be great if there were some way to find the best people to run for office rather than the way we do it now? Perhaps utilizing intelligence tests, psychological profiles, personality profiles, CAT scans, and other assorted criteria, all taken into consideration to find the best person for a particular position or office?

Maybe, probably, impractical when considering the local levels such as town council, or even mayor, but for higher office, in this day and age, surely there is a better way than the old boy network, family connections, or the monetary value of a person. (Certainly, in some cases monetary success, success in business indicates an ability to do well economically.) And yes it should be used as a barometer, one barometer, but not the only one. (In some cases the money is inherited, or the person is born into economic situations that offer an unfair advantage. Which doesn't make them a bad person, but it doesn't mean they are the best choice for office.)

It tells us nothing about the content of the potential candidate’s character, nor their ability to handle the responsibilities inherent in the position for which they are being considered.

I'm not putting this forth as a cure-all for our political problems, but rather as a starting point for a discussion on possible ways to improve the quality of our leaders. (And this has nothing to do with the potential candidate’s political positions or affiliation, nor should it, IMO)

Do any of you have any ideas on this subject? I would love to hear them.

KE

[ February 14, 2006, 09:09 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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The Drake
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Yes. It will be much easier to find good people to run for office by having them take a bunch of intrusive required tests.

I'd start by offering a competitive salary.

Make the salary high enough that lobbyist gifts and backroom bonuses will not be appealing.

Next, find a way to limit idiots from voting. Candidates are now selected on their ability to pound a very few simplistic ideas home to their constituency.

So, give the tests to the voters, and the quality will rise without constructing a metric for the candidate.

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KnightEnder
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IMO, anybody that wants to serve the public won't have much of a problem taking a few tests. Especially if there is a high salary, a high degree of respect, and a chance to help his/her fellow man as a pay off.

I also agree that voters should have to take a test and show some knowledge of the issues, but I think it would be more likely to get the candidates to take a test than the voters.

For some damn reason Americans feel it is their right to vote no matter how stupid they are or how little they know about the government or the issues. My stupid cousin voted for Bush because he thought Kerry looked weird.

KE

[ February 14, 2006, 10:08 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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flydye45
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I don't find the competitive salary a compelling idea. Many presidents have been rich.

You are aiming wrong. Instead test for the franchise, with a public service component. Sure you are disenfranchising the poor, but then you don't have fatcats collecting homeless from Philly for voting in NJ, as Corzine is rumored to have done. Tests and service don't cost money.

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by KnightEnder:
For some damn reason Americans feel it is their right to vote no matter how stupid they are or how little they know about the government or the issues. My stupid cousin voted for Bush because he thought Kerry looked weird.

lol - that's classic.

I do support your general longing for better men and women to serve the nation in its highest offices.

A good friend of mine once expressed an interesting opposing viewpoint. He didn't want to see more capable people in high government office, because they would be more likely to find a way to pervert the office to their own personal ends.

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KnightEnder
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Good points Fly, Drake.

Fly, I think the whole how rich is rich enough that a high salary is not an attraction discussion could probably be a thread all on its own. I mean, it seems to me that even the rich always want more. Therefore, a poor or lower income person might be so happy with the higher salary that they would be content, no?

Drake,

The perverting that your friend speaks of is one of the reasons behind the personality testing etc. We need people that are truly altruistic. In it to serve their fellow man. Even if for only a short term. However, I readily admit that the combination of altruistic yet tough-minded and hard enough to handle some of the unpleasant tasks that politicians must perform would be hard to find.

IMO, this person that is "best suited" for the job will be extremely rare. If he/she exists at all. God knows I'm not qualified. But if we can't find this exact "perfect" person for the job, then we take the one that is closest to the ideal perfect fit.

KE

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Everard
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Disqualify from office anyone who lobbies anyone to vote for them. That will significantly improve teh quality of candidates [Smile]

Under no circumstances apply a test to either candidates or voters. The potential for abuse is simply too great.

If we're going to have the death penalty, use it on people convicted of corrupting the political process.

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Rallan
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A test for voters Drake? What's to stop the majority of eligable voters electing candidates who'll alter the test requirements for potential voters to deliberately disenfranchise unpopular segments of society? Or the politicians rigging the test to disenfranchise demographics that don't support them?
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flydye45
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What exactly is wrong with, for example, requiring a voter to know the three branches of government, what the Amendments of the Constitution are and how they are applied, the name of their representitives, etc.

I think we've come far enough to expect a certain level of literacy from our population. If you can't be bothered to learn to read or go to school (last I checked, requirements for children), why should you get the franchise? Certainly we could "simplify" the tests to a sixth grade level of comprehension. I'd even go so far as to offer oral examinations. Not multiple choice, short answer questions. And some tax dollars could be spent for specific classes to help those in "bad" schools.

I get a bit sick of people "standing on their rights" without picking up their responsibilities. Jury duty and military service just jump to mind. [Wink]

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Everard
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"I get a bit sick of people "standing on their rights" without picking up their responsibilities. Jury duty and military service just jump to mind. "

Why aren't you acting as an EMT? Or being a teacher? How come you haven't gone to medical school?


Military service is only one possible way of serving the country... and I'd argue we have far too many people choosing that path, because we have a large enough military that we can wage wars of aggression.

"What exactly is wrong with, for example, requiring a voter to know the three branches of government, what the Amendments of the Constitution are and how they are applied, the name of their representitives, etc."

Nothing. What exactly is to stop such a test from becoming jim crow again? Or being written in such a way by the party in power to disenfranchise the other party? Etc.

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The Drake
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I've proposed before a very simple objective test for voters that cannot be corrupted.

Require the voter to be able to write/type the name of the candidates they are voting for.

This solves the problems of ballot access, blind party voting, and requires a minimum of political awareness.

If you can't K-E-R-R-Y or B-U-S-H then you're S-O-L.

And Arnold could never have been Governor, and who will argue with that. [Smile]

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RickyB
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"Sure you are disenfranchising the poor..."

First against the wall when the revolution comes. [Smile]

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IrishTD
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Disallow career politicians. Term limit all of 'em. Every level. That might actually get them doing something useful rather than constantly running for reelection. Heck, I'd even be willing to term limit them at each level...i.e. you get 12 years (elected positions) in the fed gov't. No more.

Don't have to worry about doing stuff for lobbyists when you can't get elected again.

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Adjudicator
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Anybody ever read a book called "the truth machine"? It had an interesting premise. The strange thing is that the premise looks poised to become true. With fMRI and perhaps a few other modalities, it appears that we can now have infallible lie detectors.

A few simple changes could clean up politics immensely- have all national politicians undergo a lie detector test once or twice a year. Set standards of accepting no special interest money, perhaps a few situation-relevant questions (e.g. WMD, or Swift Boat for example) and see what happens.

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The Drake
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quote:
He said the only shortfall was how practical it was to use fMRI routinely because it requires the patient to remain relatively still inside a large, expensive tube-like machine which performs the scanning.
Putting politicians into a tube that is less roomy than a coffin and holding them immobile?

I like it.

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Everard
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Truth Machine was a great book. You ever read the first immortal, adjudicator? Same author.
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Adjudicator
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Ev- no, I haven't read that. I'll have to check it out.
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Everard
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Not quite as good, but it explores what happens when it becomes possible for people to live more or less forever.
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rickhinshaw
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To address the original question, try reading 'Starship Troopers,' by Heinlein. And İ don't mean watch the movie.
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Praetorian
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I don't like the idea of a lie detector test for candidates because I think that sometimes a president should have the freedom to not answer or give a half answer on topics of national security. Perhaps I would be more for it if the questions would shy away from this topic. Yet, I think that this topic is one of the ones that most people are going to want answers to. Even if you put in the caveat that they're allowed to say I cannot answer this at this time, you've allowed a loophole that could be used for all sorts of questions thus destroying the benefits of this system.

An IQ test opens an entirely new can of worms. These are the same guys that spent an exhaustive amount of time talking about hanging chads....

I'm skeptical I suppose about this.

As to what system...I'm not sure what is the right answer. I hesitate here a little mainly because I think that once we start disqualifying someone for being...I don't know...average then we've walked away from the heart of this democracy. I think your confidence in voters aptitude for picking a candidate that doesn't stink is lacking. Generally speaking, every group has an idiot, people know when they're being lied to or if someone's just completely out of their mind.

So I say if in the march of the penguins in an election year if a completely unqualified guy wants to run....go to. It's the beauty of our country.

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cperry
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quote:
Originally posted by rickhinshaw:
To address the original question, try reading 'Starship Troopers,' by Heinlein. And İ don't mean watch the movie.

Welcome to Ornery, Rickhinshaw. Heinlein was very heavy-handed about his political opinions, but probably most so in Starship Troopers.
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rickhinshaw
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Granted. But one of the reasons Sci-fi makes an excellent way to present ideas is it is openly admitted to be fantastic. So an idealized concept can be presented with less danger of getting bogged down in the details. What İ was thinking of was Heinlein's idea that in order to become a citizen and earn the right to vote, one had to spend a certain amount of time doing something dangerous and unpleasant. The result (according to Heinlein) was that while voters could still be wrong, they were much less likely to be frivolous, since they had paid a high personal premium for the right to vote (and, of course, run for office).
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KnightEnder
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I've read everything Heilnein wrote, most more than once. As a matter of fact I just got through rereading "Medusa's Children" a couple of days ago. Now I'm reading "Flybody" about Bush Sr. being shot down and his buddies that went into the drink with him.

KE

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LetterRip
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Adjudicator,

actually that probably does not catch practiced lies only spontaneous lies.

rickhinshaw,

quote:
amount of time doing something dangerous and unpleasant
Has been awhile since I read it but I think it was government civil or military service, I don't think it required dangerous service, that just happened to be the track that the hero took.

LetterRip

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Ivan
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LR-

Na, the way it was described, they made sure the "civil service" was life-threateningly dangerous. I think an example given was testing prototype survival gear on Mercury or something like that. Of course, "civil" is something of a misnomer here since you don't become a "citizen" until you've completed the service in Heinlein's world.

Either way, ST was and probably still is one of my favorite SciFi books.

edit: But of course, "civil" is derivative of "civilian" rather than "citizen", making it a perfectly appropriate name. Go etimology! >_<

[ February 15, 2006, 05:32 PM: Message edited by: Ivan ]

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LetterRip
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civil as in government service not of a military nature.

I could misrember so perhaps you are right.

Ah just found an essay on it,

http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/ftp/fedrlsvc.pdf

Quote from Heinlien,

quote:
Veteran” does not mean in English dictionaries or in this novel solely a person who has served in military forces. I concede that in commonest usage today it means a war veteran…but no one hesitates to speak of a veteran fireman or a veteran school teacher. In STAR-SHIP TROOPERS it is stated flatly and more than once that nineteen out of twenty veterans are not military veterans. Instead, 95% of voters are what we call today “former members of federal civil service.” [ellipses and emphasis in the original]
Heinlien apparently intended the way that I've interpreted it, but the general view people get is that it is your interpretation.

Hmm perhaps there were different versions printed? According to the essay the 19/20 civil is not in the novel - but I vaguely recall a similar passage.

As to the arguement in the essay that quoted passages imply military service - given it was a time of war the need would obviously be for military personnel, thus likely at that time joining up would result in military service.

LetterRip

[ February 15, 2006, 05:47 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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rickhinshaw
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İ haven't read 'Truth Machine,' is it anything like '...and the truth shall set you free...', by A.D. Foster? That's a short story in 'With Friends Like These...' or possibly the sequel.
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flydye45
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Fine, let teaching in South Central or any other dangerous neighborhood be service for citizenship. The list was not meant to be exhaustive. Enough silly young idealists in the Peace Corp have died that it makes that a viable option too.

The core principle is this: a difficult service with a component of risk which is not mandatory. If you can't show any selflessness, how can you be counted on make the compromises necessary as a voter or a politician.

And I don't see the emotive waving the red shirt of Jim Crow as automatically dismissing the idea of testing for citizenship. We aren't exactly talking about only polling the best and brightest or even the richest and best connected. We are talking about someone making an extra step for something that they value. The franchise is priceless. And in some cases that means it has no value at all.

[ February 15, 2006, 06:42 PM: Message edited by: flydye45 ]

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The Drake
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I'll tell you what I'd go for. Make every born American become naturalized through the existing process for immigrants. Make them take the oath, learn the history, learn the law. And so on. Extend resident alien cards at birth, but the perks of citizenship are reserved.
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FIJC
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I am beginning to agree with you Drake. I think that waay too many people do not appreciate living in the U.S. and what a privilege it is to be a U.S. citizen. I became a citizen when I was 6 years old; I can remember that day very clearly. Of course, my parents did most of the work, but I will always remember my feeling of wonder and gratitude on that day.
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KnightEnder
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I read the book when I was 11, but I liked the movie, too. Anything with Denise Richards can't be all bad. And the buggers were great. As was the actor who played the teacher and the Sarge from from Highlander.

KE

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LetterRip
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The Drake,

that seems the most reasonable approach to me.

LetterRip

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flydye45
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Sounds reasonable to me.
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aupton15
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I'm not sure about using tests to choose politicians, but I'd love to give some personality tests to some politicians. Top 3 most interesting for me would be Bush, Howard Dean and Barack Obama. I think that would be a fun contrast in styles, and I think they are all interesting personalities on their own. This is the kind of thing dork psychologists dream about...welcome to my world.
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TinMan
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Until we come up with ways other than wealth, looks, and connections to judge *everyone* in society, how are we going to limit that paradigm to just politicians.

It is a core of the Democracy/Human Nature mixture that the above will almost always dominate. Look at how our society judges almost anything. Which sells better: an ultra-ugly, ultra high-performance vehicle, or an ultra-sleek, ultra-expensive gas-guzzler that wont last five years?

We'll solve the political problem when we solve human nature... [Smile] )

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enochville
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My suggestion would be to take campaign money out of the equation. I think the races should come down to how they would/did vote on the issues and what legislation they would propose. Media outlets like Congress.org and newspapers would publish platforms, voting history, statements and answers to a few questions posed to the candidates. Public debates would still take place as they do now, but there would be no commercials.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
I'll tell you what I'd go for. Make every born American become naturalized through the existing process for immigrants. Make them take the oath, learn the history, learn the law. And so on. Extend resident alien cards at birth, but the perks of citizenship are reserved.

And what exactly will that achieve other than making jingoistic idiots happy and helping create an impression that anything less than jingoistic idiocy is unpatriotic? The point of the government is to serve the people, not the other way around, and citizens of a country shouldn't be forced to jump through hoops to show they're worthy.
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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Rallan:
citizens of a country shouldn't be forced to jump through hoops to show they're worthy.

Why not? Because that's the way it's been in the past?

I don't know what you're on about with regard to jingoism or patriotism, but let's examine what we require of our naturalized citizens.

From NCIS:

quote:
a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
an ability to read, write, and speak English;
a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
good moral character;
attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
favorable disposition toward the United States.

Now, most of the history questions should be answerable by anyone who finishes high school, surely that wouldn't be an undue burden?

How many Americans will pass these simple questions?

31. Can you name the two (2) Senators from your state?

45. Who said, “Give me liberty or give me death”?

61. What is the basic belief of the Declaration of Independence?


But most importantly, something which is not earned has no value. The process of attaining citizenship will underscore its value. At the same time, it will weed out those who do not pass these basic standards of understanding what our government is - and how it works - before choosing the men and women who hold those offices.

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Godot
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I think anyone who WANTS to hold the office should be disqualified.

Barring that, we need publicly financed elections so it's not just the rich who can run for office. Then our elected representatives will be beholden to no-one but the voters for their election, as it should be.

Imagine if our President, Senators and Representatives didn't have to raise money all the time and actually considered their primary purpose to be ensuring the welfare of the citizenry? Would we have an energy policy written by energy companies in secret? Would we have a Medicare drug plan with huge built-in profits for the drug companies? Would huge corporations with 3 trillion dollars in profits be allowed to effectively pay no taxes? Would a tax cut that mainly benefits wealthy people be made permanent when cuts are being made to services for poor people?

That simple change in how are elections are financed would usher in a new era where our children won't be able to imagine a government made up of only two parties, and where the richest nation on Earth doesn't pander to those who have the most and turn its back on those with the least.

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Jesse
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I want the legislature punching a time card, pure and simple. Minimum 40 hour week. No overtime pay. Four weeks a year vacation, two weeks sick time, no more. Exceed it, you're fired and can wait until the next election to try to get your seat back.

Run for another office while serving? Better be able to do it on your own time. Oh yeah, by the way, we won't take replacements. States better vote for someone who can finish their term.

Of course we need to get rid of the cheat sheet. No listing party affiliations on ballots. No requesting the affiliations of the voters, either. We can't stop parties from existing, but we can prevent them from being officialy acknowledged. I want more pro-gun, pro-choice, military isolationist, free trade, anti-UN, strong border, fiscal responsibility canidates who support the ironclad seperation of church and state! Screw platforms.

Truly open primaries, top two canidates run in the fall. You would see a lot less bowing out early, and a lot more real debate.

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