Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Don't Count Bush Out!

Bush and his friends are like little vandals leaving ugly tricks for the new administration. And they have another 77 days to wreak more havoc!

Here is a sampling from the New York Times . THey aren't going to make it any easier for Obama to succeed in his first 100 days.


Pombat said...

This is another thing I've never understood about the US system - why so long between election and inauguration? Is there some historical reason, or is it just random and being stuck to?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Originally, the electoral college members had to meet in each state after they were chosen, then transmit their votes to the Congress who would announce them. Congress would have gone home for the election and not returned until Spring. So the election was the first week in November and inauguration on March 4. In 1932, this was changed by constitutional amendment so that the Congress assembles in the first week of January, counts the votes, then a president is inaugurated on January 20. The reason for not making it December was (1) to have the electoral college meet in person and resolve all electoral disputes and (2) so that Congress would not have to be in session doing heavy legislative work between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I'm not sure of a much better solution. Having Congress set up before the President arrives remains, I think, a very good idea.

Pombat said...

Ok, historically, that makes sense now.

So, what would the implications be if the inauguration was, say, 20th Feb, with Congress meeting in the first week of Feb, and - back-tracking here - the election happening in the last week of Jan?

Or even, if you wanted to not have the end of the campaign over Thanksgiving/Christmas, election in last week of May, Congress meet first week June, inauguration third week of June. That's not too tight a timescale is it?

I'm just thinking of any reorganisation so that the outgoing president doesn't have time to smash *all* the plates...

Raised By Republicans said...

Having the election in January would do weird things to turnout because of the bad weather.

The Law Talking Guy said...

(Put on your Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack). Tradition! Tradition!

This is not all as dumb as it seems. One of the foundations of American democracy is holding regularly scheduled elections. We even did so during the US civil war. Lincoln risked reelection and probably would have been defeated but for Sherman's triumphant victory and march into Atlanta in September 1864 (after a very bloody and inconclusive summer). The First Tuesday in November has been election day since the late 18th century. Some things are best left alone. I was afraid GWBush would try to cancel the 2004 elections with some sort of terrorism scam, and I knew that a great weapon we had against this was the weight of tradition and custom.

All that being said, yes, we could probably move inauguration and the gathering of the new congress to the first week of December, especially if we changed to direct nationwide election of the president. Now that lameduck Congressional sessions are common, we could have the Congress gather right before Thanksgiving and inaugurate the President shortly thereafter.

USwest said...

Another part of the tradition is, as RBR indicated bad weather. Also, remember back in the day, there weren't paved roads. People arrived from great distances by horse and it took a while for Congressmen and electors to get to Washington. Also, Congressmen were not full time legislators in the past. It was a civic duty that they took on in addition to their regular work. Many congressmen were businessmen and farmers with affaires to maintain at home. So scheduling an extra trip to Washington was trickey.

By 1932, some of these concerns were limited because we had better transport and a more professional political class.

The Law Talking Guy said...

To be clear, electors only ever meet in their own home states, never in Washington.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Indeed, the founders avoided a national conclave to choose a president like a pope, and made sure the electors only ever met in small groups in their own home states.