The Structure Of Democracy: can we do better with ONE simple change?

Given the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, many are asking themselves, “Is this the best we can do?”

In September of 2016, only 35.6% of voters were “pro” either candidate, 31.3% were actively against one of the candidates, leaving 33.1% of voters left with no strong opinion.¹ In the 2020 elections, support for either candidate has hardly improved, as 75% of voters cite “he is not Biden/Trump” as their top reason for their decision.²

The first step towards the United States doing a better job involves identifying the best case scenario for a voter during election cycle. We can define this most optimal scenario as follows.

For each voter, there exists a candidate whose stance on EVERY political issue is the EXACT SAME as the voter’s own stance.

In this ideal world, we all can vote for someone who perfectly represents our ideals. Every individual would have the opportunity to elect a president who they stand behind. Numerically this means raising that 35.6% of voters (who were “pro” one candidate in 2016) to 100%. This sounds unrealistic and rightfully so with our current structure of government. My goal in this article is not to convince you that this ideal world is achievable, rather I hope to demonstrate that a slight restructuring of our government could get us much closer to that best case scenario, where every voter has the ability to elect a candidate who shares their vision for the future of the Unites States.

So what are our options to get closer to a world where every individual is able to vote for a candidate who shares their political views?

We can imagine two approaches: more candidates OR less power per candidate.

More candidates would increase the likelihood that there is one candidate whose viewpoints align reasonably well with your own. Does this option make sense? With primaries, we are already selecting from a large number of candidates. In the 2020 democratic primaries, 29 individuals declared candidacy.³ And with our two party system, even if there are more than two candidates in the final election, voting for a third party is seen as “throwing away” a vote. Moreover, as we increase the number of candidates, the difficulty of selecting a candidate increases as well… doing enough research to be accurately informed about two candidates is already a daunting task.

So let’s imagine what less power per candidate might look like. Currently the president has A LOT of responsibilities. From the white house’s website:

The President is both the head of state and head of government of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress. Fifteen executive departments — each led by an appointed member of the President’s Cabinet — carry out the day-to-day administration of the federal government. They are joined in this by other executive agencies such as the CIA and Environmental Protection Agency, the heads of which are not part of the Cabinet, but who are under the full authority of the President. The President also appoints the heads of more than 50 independent federal commissions, such as the Federal Reserve Board or the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as federal judges, ambassadors, and other federal offices. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) consists of the immediate staff to the President, along with entities such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.⁴

The point is, the president is in charge of appointing A LOT of people and overseeing essentially every part of the government. So what would reducing the power of the president look like? In one scenario, instead of electing one president in charge of A LOT, we could elect a few presidents in charge of A REASONABLE AMOUNT.

How would this increase voter satisfaction? On average, democrats and republicans have different ways of addressing ~11 issues, such as taxation and healthcare.⁵ For a given voter to agree with either side on all 11 issues is an anomaly, but for a given voter to agree with either side on just 1 issue, is almost guaranteed.

For an example of how fewer presidents would increase voter satisfaction, imagine that there are two presidents. One in charge of the economy and another in charge of social issues. A voter being well aligned with at least one of the candidates for “President of the Economy” is highly likely. Economic ideologies fall on a gradient with two large buckets: capitalism and socialism. So when a voter (who likely falls into one bucket) needs to elect one candidate for the “President of the Economy”, it is very likely that one of the two candidates would fall into the same bucket as the voter.

So far, reducing the power per candidate seems like a more promising option than increasing the number of candidates. So lets now imagine what reducing the power per candidate would look like, given the current structure of the executive branch, in order to determine if this approach to increasing voter satisfaction would be possible and desirable.

The executive branch is a team of over 1,800 people, many of whom are overseen by the 15 cabinet members.⁴ The cabinet members (selected by the president and confirmed by congress) advise the president, they do not have any power to sign legislation or to veto legislation. The POWER of the executive branch lies solely in the president, who this year (2020) less than half of the United States population will be satisfied with.²

So, a proposed solution?

Organize the 15 cabinet positions into 3 groups. Each group would be controlled by a President who has the power to sign legislation and to veto legislation that is categorized as relevant to their group. This categorization would be determined by the supreme court.

In the proposed restructuring of the executive branch, voters would be more likely to align with the views of a candidate since each candidate has less power. And as an added benefit, the candidate themselves would be more specialized for their job since they would have fewer responsibilities, giving them more time to focus deeply on addressing specific issues.

This solution seems to have desirable benefits for both voters and candidates, and this solution seems possible given the current structure of the government. The responsibilities of the executive branch are already divided by the cabinet members, the proposed solution would essentially just be to give presidential power to those members.

Listed below are the current cabinet positions, grouped into three potential categories. By no means is this article meant to provide THE solution to create a better government that sufficiently represents its constituents. This article is meant to make readers question. Is our current government structure the best that we can do? What factors are causing our government to not be optimal? And most importantly, what can we do to make it better?

President of Securing US
Department of State
Department of Defense
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Justice

President of Ensuring Prosperity of US
Department of the Treasury
Department of Commerce
Department of Labor
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of the Interior
Department of Agriculture

President of Developing the US
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Transportation
Department of Energy
Department of Education

To know if we can do better involves identifying the problems that have left Americans with two dissatisfying candidates, two election cycles in a row.

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