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Editorial: Government, electoral process change over time


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With the successful and peaceful completion of the recent presidential election, this column focuses on two concerns — the election process and the role of government.

The election process is too long, too expensive and too negative. Also, is our government too big and too powerful?

A distinguished scholar once said that the American election process should be classified as a human miracle.

During the campaign period, our country is torn apart by the furious attack by both parties. As part of the competitive process, it is understandable to not like the other candidate, but at times it seemed like they hated each other. However, once the votes are counted and the electoral votes have been allocated, the loser will make a concession speech and congratulate the winner, while the winner will give a victory speech and praise and promise to work with the other candidate for the good of the country. Afterward, everything returns to normal.

It is no wonder that people in this country and around world think that American democracy is the best the world has ever seen. As a political scientist, I cannot agree more.

American democracy, especially the presidential election process, has evolved but not necessarily in a good way. The process has become too long, too expensive and too negative.

First, the election process is too long. By the time the campaigning, party primaries, national conventions, debates and election are completed, we are tired, exhausted and can’t wait for it to end. The election was just minutes over and analysts already were discussing the possible candidates for the 2016 election.

Second, the election process is too expensive. It is estimated that just for the presidential election alone that more than $4 billion was spent. Isn’t there a better use for this money? In any event, most of this money comes from the special interest groups. Unfortunately, money buys the influence; and when money and politics join force, the people suffer.

Third, the election process is too negative. While mudslinging seems to work, this approach not only hurts our leaders personally but also tarnishes their abilities to lead. It almost undermines the game of politics. Our leaders are wounded by the very democratic process of which we are so proud of.

Winning is important, and we obviously want the right person to lead this country; but when is enough, enough? In my eyes, election reform is needed.

Now on to the second topic, our concerns with the role of government. Some people complain that the government is getting too big and too powerful. As a constitutional professor, I have to tell you that our Constitution does not address the size of government but only addresses the nature of our government.

Under our Constitution, a limited government is established to protect our individual liberties. As far as the size of government, this depends on the physical and demographic conditions of the country. These types of conditions are subject to change.

When our Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, the population of the United States was small. More than 200 years later, our population has exploded to more than 300 million. The nation’s resources were rich and plentiful. Competition with other countries was not intense. Fast forward to the 21st century our lifestyle has changed beyond recognition.

The United States is like a family. At the beginning there were just the two spouses in a small house. But as time passed, the family grew with children, then grandchildren, etc., and the house then becomes too small.

Here are a few examples to illustrate this point.

Before Hurricane Katrina, we did not have an effective Federal Emergency Management Agency. Now, after Hurricane Sandy, we see the important and helpful functions of FEMA.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we did not have a counterterrorism office to combat terrorism. Now, we realize how the agency is vital to our national security and safety of our citizens.

You do not need an expert to tell you about the changing role of the government. All you need is common sense that, as the world changes, the functions of government change.

French philosopher Montesquieu wrote that the type and the size of the government should be based on the physical settings of a country. Physical settings include population, natural resources, economy, climate and many other factors. One size does not fit all.

A government’s role and function should change when conditions change. This is reality, this is politics. Any political party or any politician who does not understand and grasp this simple fact is doomed.

Professor Yu-long Ling, a Franklin resident, is an expert in foreign policy. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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