killing precedent 6


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?

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6 thoughts on “killing precedent

  • Constantinople

    I don’t understand the connection you’re making between “killing precedent” and low voter turnout in the primaries.

    If you think turnout is to low, what suggestions do you have for increasing it?

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I am saying that low voter turnout in primaries means drastic changes can be made with relatively little effort in bringing out new voters.

      I am saying that if we want to kill precedent then we need to work to change the system from within because it is so ingrained in how we do business that short of a massive revolt at the polls, we will never see a more strategic and process-driven methodology in government.

      Changing the way things have always been done, or precedent, means we have to start by sending new people to government at the local, state and federal level. We can’t do that if we don’t show up for the primary election.

      More clear?

      • Constantinople

        Sorry for not responding earlier. After the post fell off the most recent list I lost track of it (I am, to say the least, Dashboard challenged).

        Thanks for the clarification.

        Any suggestions as to how to increase turnout?

        • Jason Everett Miller

          No problem at all. My posts are hit or miss for making the list.

          I think we are already seeing a shift. Turnout for primaries have been in the 30% range this year, which is unprecedented. That bodes well for a general election turnout ten our fifteen points higher than 2004, which was only 60.7% after four years of Bush.

          I think if we continue along the current trends that we’ll be just fine.

  • brantlamb

    In an election, (no matter how you run it)you don’t get to pick exactly the candidate that you want, you pick the one that best matches your ideas. You seldom get exactly what you want, nor did 95% of the electorate. That’s life.

    Any election that counts on majority rule is likely to be majorly an observance of precedent, unless it’s the first one, and still, maybe even then.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      We have yet to enjoy anything resembling “majority” rule in this country due to low voter turnout. I would agree with this statement if the US had ever enjoyed the same turnout as other advanced democracies. Unfortunately, we have rule by the fringes which is the worst of all possible worlds.