Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Solution To Disloyalty: A Performance Bond

Disloyalty is a real problem in politics, and this year has seen more than its normal share. Political opportunists, egomaniacs and vindictive jerks enter primaries in bad faith, with no intent of accepting defeat. If the other guy wins, they break from the party and run as an independent. No one seems to know what to do about this. I do.

Disloyalty is a long time problem, and it’s a problem for both sides. This year you’ve got Crist in Florida and Murkowski in Alaska both thinking that they are too important to disappear onto the ash heap of history, and unwilling to try for a different office. In 2008, it was Joe Lieberman. These egomaniacs simply cannot accept that the public doesn’t want them and they are going to do anything they can to make sure they keep that job, no matter what the consequences.

Others have different motives. Some are opportunists who simply want to make a name for themselves in the hopes of getting famous. These want book deals or television deals, some will change their politics overnight to make this happen. Others simply want to sabotage their parties. A classic example of such a saboteur was John Anderson running for President against Reagan. He despised the shift in the GOP from non-ideological, blue blood permanent minority to ideologically conservative. He knew he couldn’t win, but that wasn’t his point -- if we’re being honest. He wanted to hand Reagan a defeat to “prove” that conservatives cannot be elected in America.

So far, no one has come up with a way to deal with these traitors. Allow me to suggest the following:

Any candidate who enters into a primary will be required to post a $1,000,000 performance bond, much like criminals post bonds to assure that they will show up for their hearings. The terms of the bond will be simple: if you leave the primary and run on any other party’s ticket, or if you endorse anyone other than the winner of the primary, then you lose the bond. The proceeds of that bond would go to the winner of the primary.

Other professions do this with non-compete clauses and forfeiture provisions for warrants, stock options or salary claw-back provisions. So why not politicians?

Admittedly, there are some flaws with this system. First, many will complain that this keeps out anyone but rich candidates -- obtaining a million dollar bond would require significant amounts of collateral; criminals usually need to post 10% of the cost of their bonds and find a large portion of the face amount in collateral. But I’m not sympathetic to this argument because politics is an expensive game and you don’t lose this money unless you violate the bond. Moreover, if you are so untrustworthy that your family and friends aren't willing to put up their houses as collateral to support you, then maybe that tells us something important about you.

Secondly, this won’t stop candidates from very publicly refusing to endorse the winner, but they would run the risk of being found in violation if they stray too close to the line. You could require them to endorse the winner, but I think that would be a mistake because (1) it doesn’t stop obviously faked-endorsements and (2) it would make candidates subject to the allegation that their endorsements are made under duress.

Third, this doesn’t stop jackasses like Tom Tancredo in Colorado who didn’t run in the primary, but then jumped in as an independent when he didn’t like the candidate the Republicans chose. But I see this as a small risk because the real danger is from the people who thought they would win the primary and then didn’t.

This system isn’t perfect, but I think it would seriously cut down on the risk of disloyal candidates destroying their party’s chances for whatever egomaniacal or vindictive reasons they may have.

What do you think?


LL said...

Politicians would never go for it.

And THAT makes it an excellent idea.

AndrewPrice said...

Nice point LL! VERY well reasoned!

AndrewPrice said...

Speaking of Murkowski, here a quote from her today that is so emblematic of the problem with her style of thinking. She is attacking Jim Demint as follows:

"I think he has made people uncomfortable."

I cannot think of a more clearly stated example of the problem with her and the rest of the establishment types. They don't understand that politics is about imposing your political views, it's not a club where everyone gets together and tries to be friends.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Andrew, I think that just before the bond is forfeited there should be a public flogging. Let's start with Lisa Murkowski. I'm sure a flogging would make her very uncomfortable.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, We could sell tickets. . . kind of raffle for who gets to do the flogging. We could raise a ton of money.

Mike K. said...

I gotta say that as a resident of Connecticut I was very grateful that I had the option to vote for Joe Lieberman. If he hadn't run as an independent, we'd be stuck with Ned Lamont, who's an anti-war, anti-anti-terrorist kook.

Perhaps under your system, he'd have run as an independent from the beginning, though. It's not like the Democratic Party helped him at all. He couldn't get a primary endorsement from anybody, despite being their Vice-Presidential candidate 6 years before.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, That is a problem -- loss of choice of candidates. Though, it's only a million dollars, so if it was that important, he could just "pay the fine" and run anyway.

What I think this stops though are the people like Murkowski, who has no chance of winning but has decided to run as an independent out of spite because she lost. In fact, her comments today were very, very nasty and indicate that her concerns are about punishing people she thinks have done her wrong -- not anything ideological or about the interests of the people in the state.

Ed said...

I'm not usually thrilled with technical solutions, but this sounds like a good idea actually. I'm impressed.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed, Tell your friends! ;-)

I'm not usually a fan of "technical" fixes either, but this seems to work, and it's honestly not that different than people do in other professions.

Ed said...

Politics could probably learn a lot from business!

Joel Farnham said...


Very good idea. I don't think it will fly unfortunately.

It is interesting that this year we have had several RINOs turn on the Republicans. Scozzafava, Murkowski and Crist.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Politics could definitely learn a lot from business... heck, it could learn a lot from almost anything. There really is something wrong with out system.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I don't it will fly either because the people who would need to approve the change are the people it would affect, so they won't want to do it.

On our side, it usually is the RINOs who break off and run as independents when they lose the primaries because they have no respect for the party or the purpose of the party and they see themselves as more important than the will of the voters.

On the left, I think it's often the far outs who do it because they're blinded by ideology.

StanH said...

We could put the loser in a gunny sack, and throw them in the river, …just kidding.

Sounds like a good idea.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I wouldn't rule out the gunny sack idea either -- not a bad one. It might make people more responsive! ;-)

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