Very few American norms are as damaging to the healthy functioning of our republic than an over-reliance on precedent in charting our future course. We must examine past decisions to learn lessons on how we might make different choices moving forward. The past is good for that sort of thing. However, America currently practices precedent as a way to stop change. It has become a process by which common sense evolution in governance dies a death of a thousand cuts.
The notion that killing precedent as a primary way of making decisions seems obvious to me. We stagger along using Government 1.0 on old, clunky servers while many nations long passed us with Gov 2.0 and have a G 3.0 implementation well underway. Legacy systems kill large organizations if they are integral to how they function. Our legacy systems of precedent and patronage are most certainly killing us and should be the number one criteria we use to judge who we send to local, state and federal government. There is not a single thing that couldn’t be changed for the better if we selected better people to represent us, holding them accountable for every decision at every election.
Yes, that means the primary elections, too. Actually, that means primary elections especially. It doesn’t take many new voters to turnover government representation when turnout for primaries has been 10 or 15 percent. Even during presidential election years. Turnout is even more pathetic during midterm elections. That we have a “functioning” democracy at all is something of a miracle itself. We have an environment ripe for revolutionary and evolutionary change at all levels of government that we haven’t seen since 1932.
Perhaps it takes something unprecedented to finally kill precedent?