Thursday, May 17, 2012
THE PLACE OF TRADITION
The following is submitted to correction by any and all who know better—who may, for instance, have taken a basic civics course, which I have not.
A lot of governance is done by tradition, without there being any specific written law. The British, I understand, have no written constitution. That is why the comparative fledgling United States can boast of having the oldest written Constitution of any country in the world.
Regarding US presidents and vice presidents, there was a time when we elected them independently, so that the two might be from different political parties and completely different political persuasions. This was found to be pretty unworkable. It is comparable to how our CV president and the four vice presidents are elected.
Later, it became traditional to have the US president and vice president be from the same party; in fact, now, as we all know, the presidential nominee handpicks his vice presidential running mate. I don’t believe, however, there is anything mandating this procedure—or the previous one—in the US Constitution.
According to the Constitution, presidents are really elected by electors in the "electoral college," equal in number to the total number of senators (always 2) and representatives (a varying number) for each state. This system was set up because the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust the people to necessarily make a wise, informed choice. Although this procedure is still followed, the electoral college BY TRADITION now simply rubber stamps who the people have voted for. Should they not rubber stamp the people's choices, there would be a HUGE outcry.
Supreme Court justices are appointed by the sitting president, but must be confirmed by the Senate. As we know, the Senate now sometimes puts up a fight over such appointments, whereas BY TRADITION the president used to more often have his way.
By contrast, the US president’s appointed cabinet heads, also subject to Senate approval, are BY TRADITION usually subject to far less scrutiny by the Senate. According to the Constitution, the Congress can make some presidential appointments his to make alone, not subject to approval by any other governmental authority.
My point is mainly that, even in “a nation of laws” like the US, tradition still plays a major role in how things work.
I think this is part of what is making things difficult for us now in Century Village. Apparently a majority of the officers, executive board, and delegates—and even the president himself—thought the president should not have complete, unrestrained authority regarding appointments. So it was voted that the officers should have a say.
How much of a say is the question.
Too much say will obviously completely hamstring the president, no matter who he is.
This is what’s at issue, I think, and tradition enters into it. We need to be sensible, use some common sense, come to mutual agreement, and hold to it.