What I Expect From a Candidate for Federal Office
I very much enjoyed David Rodeback’s series of If You Want My Vote posts outlining his basic requirements of those running for local office. There’s a lot of sage advice in there for candidate and voter alike. In that spirit, I’d like to list a few things I want to see from candidates at the federal, state, and local level. There’s been way too many politicos insisting that “government” is some nebulous blob that’s the same all over. It’s not. Here’s what I want from anyone running for a federal office.
The Constitution matters. Yes, it’s over 230 years old, but it still applies. Anyone running for federal office needs to be not only familiar with the Constitution and its amendments, however. I also expect a basic understanding of the Articles of Confederation (and why they didn’t work), The Federalists Papers, The Declaration of Independence, and major Supreme Court cases. Why should someone running for federal office know all of this stuff and not just the Constitution? Because all of these things have shaped the formation of the Constitution and how it applies to federal governance. It would also be helpful to know the difference between the Federalist and Anti-federalist factions that came up with the Constitution in the first place. Without all of this knowledge, legislators tend to think they can just do whatever they want.
Send power back to the states. The federal government does too much that they, quite frankly, suck at. I think that President Clinton and the Republican Congress at the time took a good first step back in the 90’s by passing the administration of many federal welfare programs back to the states. I’d like to see that momentum continued. If a program can be handled by the states, give the taxing, spending, and administrative authority back to them so that they can run or end the programs at their discretion. It’s actually working out pretty well for the Swiss, so I’m sure we can handle it.
There are some things the federal government is supposed to do. A lot of “small government” types talk endlessly about what they don’t want the feds to do and very little time talking about how to improve the few things they actually have authority over. I want to see ideas on how to fix our broken immigration policy (no, “build a wall and shoot trespassers” doesn’t count), properly fund the construction and maintenance of federal roads (remember that “post roads” bit from the Constitution?), how you want to regulate interstate commerce (I’m expecting a light touch, folks; those Anti-federalists didn’t sign a blank check), and all those other goodies you find in Article I, Section 8.
It’s the Department of Defense, not the Department of War. Seriously, let’s close up any military base not in a US state or territory post haste and quickly wrap up our military adventures overseas. Once that’s done, have the spine to demand that the President actually follow that War Powers Act passed decades ago and require that there is no sustained war without a declaration of war from Congress. A “authorization of force” doesn’t count. Our military should be used to repel invasion, track down pirates (c’mon, guys, give out Letters of Marque and Reprisal again!), and retaliate when there is a real act of war. And don’t forget that you can declare war on non-countries too; we once had the spine to use the full force of the US Navy to blow the everliving daylights out the Barbary Coast pirates and we can do it again.
Pro-business is not pro-market. Businesses often seek legislation to protect their own interests. Invariably, that means securing special favors for market incumbents to the detriment of new entrants to a marketplace and the general public as a whole. If you aren’t at least as suspicious of corporate power as you are government power, I’m unlikely to want to vote for you.
While I’m sure I could think of dozens of other things to add to this list, this should form the basis of a good candidate for federal office.