The current system of filling Senate vacancies was a bad idea even before Rod Blagojevich ruined it.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Dec. 17 2008 7:59 PM

The Wisdom of Crowds

The current system of filling Senate vacancies was a bad idea even before Rod Blagojevich ruined it.

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Although Pay-Rod and the Blagola scandal brought it to the nation's attention, the appointments issue is more a question of democratic principle than of one Democrat's lack of it. Most governors faced with a Senate vacancy do the right thing, make perfectly sensible choices, and, as often as not, watch their picks flame out in the next election. Since that pattern has now persisted around the country for a century, it only underscores why the direct election of senators was such a fundamental breakthrough in the first place. When it comes to choosing the people's elected representatives, no intermediary—not legislatures, not governors, not the courts—can come close to speaking for us. The Progressive Era taught us the wisdom of crowds: In a democracy, if there's handpicking to be done, we're better off doing it ourselves.

Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at thehasbeen@gmail.com. Read his disclosure here.

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