In recent Washington Post opinion piece, Robert Dallek suggested that the U.S. adopt a constitutional amendment providing for a mechanism to recall the president (link). As much as I would like to see President Bush out of the White House, adding a mechanism for removing the president from office is not a good solution to the problem of electing bad presidents in the first place, and would invite further politicization of the executive branch (though I have a hard time imagining exactly how it could get more politicized) by making it difficult for presidents to make unpopular decisions when they are really warrented.

The presidency should not be a political office. The executive’s job is to enforce the laws, not to push for policy. When the judicial branch is perceived to be pushing for policy, it is rightly criticized. People should have the same attitude towards the executive branch. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently said, “I’m not there to make judgments based on my personal policy positions.” Executives should hold the same ideal.

Changing the attitude of the executive branch will require some institutional change. I see the political character of the executive branch as a consequence of the winner takes all electoral system. The winner take all system seems necessary for presidential elections, but elections are not the only way to select government officials.

Like the judicial branch, the executive branch could be filled by appointments. Instead of electing a president, the people could elect a Federal Selector, who handles the appointments that the president now handles and appoints the executive. In order to ensure broad approval, the Senate would have to approve appointments to the judicial and executive branches by a super-majority, perhaps as high as 75% in secret ballot vote (to reduce vote trading).

Differing interest groups would recognize that compromise on appointments would be necessary because the super-majority requirement makes getting a truly favorable appointment impossible. Groups which attempted to hold out for appointment candidates who favor their interests would suffer politically and achieve nothing. Interest groups will cease to see appointments as a way to advance policy goals. This mechanism would result in appointees that are uncontroversial (at the time of their appointment), and unlikely to pursue policy changes.

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