SAN DIEGO, Ca., December 3, 2014 – Every two years, we are graced with the opportunity to either restart our Nation or reaffirm Jonathan Gruber’s hypothesis concerning our stupidity. Unfortunately, the Parties have conditioned our behavior to favor the latter. They have also been allowed to erect enormous economic barriers to ballot access that have turned our election cycles into auctions. Legitimate independent candidates with fresh ideas can’t afford the “buy-in.” So, we’re stuck… or are we?
What if I told you that a solution actually exists; one that might break the gridlock in Washington, D.C.; one that can be accomplished with little or no money; one that just might return political power to the People? Do I have your attention?
It occurred to me that “We the People” have been ignoring an opportunity that exists within the document that begins with those same three words.
Article I, Section 5, Clause 5 provides: “The House of Representatives shall chuse (sic) their Speaker;” nothing more… nothing less.
The House will elect its Speaker on the first day of the new Congress. The Speaker simply must have a clear majority of the votes cast.
However, most citizens are unaware that the Speaker does not even have to be an elected member of the House. Representatives may vote for any eligible citizen they choose… or we choose for them.
It is also important to note that the Constitution is silent with respect to how the Speaker’s role is to be performed. The position is governed by tradition rather than rules.
Today, the Speaker is expected to serve in a hyper-partisan capacity and to actively set the legislative agenda for the Majority, while delegating the responsibility for presiding over debates to other members of his or her Party.
Conversely, in other Westminster systems, the Speaker is expected to preside as a non-partisan official who facilitates well-balanced debates in order to prevent “political positions” from overwhelming rational thought.
What would happen if a nonpartisan leader were to be elected Speaker of the House?
- What if an independent Speaker were to establish nonpartisan rules with respect to how bills reach the floor; rules based upon the alignment of legislation with the best interests of the People rather than the best interests of a Party?
- What if an independent Speaker were to personally preside over all meaningful debates to ensure that the issues were fully and fairly vetted?
- What if an independent Speaker were to make all committee and staff appointments within his or her control on a basis of merit and integrity rather than strict Party affiliation and seniority?
- What if an independent Speaker were to use his or her position to demonstrate transparency and bipartisan accord in an effort to establish a standard against which the Senate and Executive Branch could be publicly measured?
Imagine the shift in our political environment; a shift cannot feasibly be accomplished in any other way.
What if “We the People” nominated an independent Speaker and exerted pressure on our Representatives to vote accordingly?
We would need to be far more diligent in our selection process. Our nominee must be a person of impeccable integrity with demonstrated leadership abilities and an unquestionable respect for the Constitution. In a Nation with approximately 204 million eligible citizens, the odds of finding one are in our favor.
Of course, the Parties can be expected to balk at the idea. There is simply too much money at stake for them to place the best interest of the People ahead of the best interests of the Parties.
However, if we decide to make it a “term limiting” decision, we might get their attention. If there is one thing that most politicians place above Party loyalty, it is their re-election.
There also is a political upside for certain constituencies within the House. Keep in mind: Even if every Representative participates, we only need 218 votes.
The new House will host the largest Republican majority in decades. Absent an independent Speaker who uses merit in determining what bills make it to the floor, House Democrats will be politically neutered for the next two years. If they block an independent Speaker, they will be exposing their preference for maintaining gridlock over empowering the People; a decision that could come crashing down on them in 2016.
This leaves us 30 votes short if every Representative participates. Where might those votes reside?
One place to look is the Tea Party Caucus, which has more than 40 members. Given the RNC’s recent innuendo that the Tea Party is no longer relevant, there may be some cross-over potential within that Caucus.
Republican members of No Labels’ “Problem Solvers” coalition may also be potential supporters. So might freshman Representatives who recognize that they will otherwise be ignored until they gain seniority.
Are the votes there for the People to essentially take control the House? I don’t know. I simply know that the present system has failed us.
Does this have to happen in 2015? No.
In fact, many of the groups that are struggling to create meaningful election reform, which the Parties will never support, may wish to join together to conduct their own National Convention in 2016; one in which they nominate an independent Speaker. Alternative parties may want to join the cause as well rather than wasting their time and money trying to run a Presidential candidate.
To reword an old Master Card ad: The cost of successfully running for the House of Representatives… $1.7 million; the cost of successfully running for Senate… $10.5 million; the cost of successfully running for President… $1 billion; the cost of nominating the next Speaker of the House… Nothing! Now, that’s “priceless.”
Those ads used to end with the words: “There are some things money can’t buy.” One of them should be our Government.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).