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Free Civics Lesson

October 30, 2010

This is the time of year when people start talking about who they will vote for and then blather on justifying their votes or trying to persuade you to think like them. Fine. Isn’t it great that we live somewhere we can talk openly about these things?

There is one justification that people use, though, that just gets stuck in my craw (wherever that is). Here it is (and I am crossing my fingers for you that you have never made this argument):

“I am going to vote for _______________ (candidate from a disempowered [opposition] party) because we need checks and balances.”

Checks and balances: also known as separation of powers. That’s my craw problem. Contrary to popular belief, I am a big fan of the checks and the balances. It references the three branches of government and how they check and they balance. Not only are they empowered differently (appointed, directly elected, and indirectly elected), but they also enjoy different term lengths (lifeish, two years/six years, and four years). And guess what? They remain no matter who you vote in. Unless we are voting to re-write the U.S. Constitution (and we are not), the separation of powers remains in tact; The Judicial Branch will continue to interpret laws, the Legislative branch will continue to make laws, and the Executive branch will continue to execute and enforce those laws. Those are the powers allotted to them, and they will use them: checking and balancing.

If that was not helpful, try Schoolhouse Rock:

It is pretty clear that people who make a statement like the one above think the checks and the balances only work when numerous political parties are involved in the branches. Not so. The Constitution says nothing, nothing, about political parties. Political parties only became important in U.S. politics much much later, during the Jackson years (another reason to get that guy off the 20–anybody with me?). Most of those Founding Fathers people think they are honoring when they vote for opposition parties actually hated political parties and warned against their involvement in our society. They’ve got a point.

So, vote your conscience. But don’t vote for someone just because you want to beef up the checks and the balances–the Constitution takes care of that. But you do have to vote.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 30, 2010 11:56 pm

    Thank you for this post very well put.

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