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RFD: kasmic vs Blade-of-Truth, 22nd Amendment

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7/11/2015 5:38:43 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
This thread is for my comments about the following debate and my reason for voting the way I did:

Say it is nearing the end of a president's second term. He wants to serve a third term and most Americans want him to do so. Should he serve a third term? Pro says yes and Con says no. So I vote Pro if I say "yes" and Con if I say "no" after reading the debate.

Pro says yes primarily because most Americans want it, and the majority deserves to get what they want (referred to as the idea that people have "sovereignty"). But is a third term really what they want? Con says no because most Americans say that no president (which categorically includes this president) should be able to do that. (Con's reasoning is that (1) A22 itself was supported by >75% of people representing the people, and (2) popular polls show A22 is still a popular idea.) This leads to a paradox: what the majority wants is that the majority cannot get what it wants. This is one of those "can God make a boulder so heavy he cannot lift it?" sort of things. Is it a violation of people's rights to give them all a right that the majority of them does not want any of them to have? Pro calls that the tyranny of the majority. Con says the right to vote is not actually a natural right, just a legal construct to help the government produce more beneficial results.

The paradoxical nature of this issue means: if I treat it as a reason to vote Pro, then I can conclude it is a reason to vote Con. But if I treat it as a reason to vote Con, then I can conclude it is a reason to vote Pro. So I will not consider the issue of voting rights or "sovereignty" at all. Instead, I will choose the policy that is most beneficial to the people overall.

With that in mind, this is the utilitarian pro/con list in my mind:

- more experienced presidents
- incentive to do great things in 2nd term to brag about them when running for 3rd term

- no more counterbalance to president
- unfair elections
- less incentive for the next generation to develop the skills to become president
- less incentive for the president to do something great while he still can
- the longer a president stays in office, the more corrupt he becomes
- more old and decrepit presidents

Before I can weigh these issues, I must know: what is actually best for the American people? Is it happiness and prosperity? (None of the arguments in this debate remotely show how A22 makes people more or less happy and prosperous.) Is it experienced leaders? Talented leaders? Morally pure leaders? (Which is better: someone who knows how to lead effectively even if he sometimes dishonestly serves himself, or someone who dedicates himself to the goal leading effectively but does not know how to accomplish that goal?)

Neither debater helps me prioritize. Pro says X causes Y and Con says X does not cause Y. Con says X causes Z and Pro says X does not cause Z. Unfortunately, Pro does not help me understand why Y is bad and Con does not help me understand why Z is good. So I am left to decide for myself what is good and bad.

Note that there are actually three separate ways in which repealing A22 would cause changes:

- The president changes his behavior in his 2nd term simply because it is possible for him to run for a 3rd term. Is a 2nd term president who looks forward to a 3rd term better than a 2nd term president who does not?

Con provides examples of good things accomplished by 2nd term presidents and asserts (however unconvincingly) that they were motivated to do those good things because they had little time left to use their power. Pro says they would still be motivated even if that was not their last chance because (1) they still had no guarantee that they would get 4 more years to do what they wanted and (2) they would still be motivated to do great things and brag about them in order to win a 3rd term.

Pro's argument has more common sense. If I want to do something great while I still have the chance, and I do not know for sure that I will have the chance for another 4 years, and I know that doing something great right now will make me likelier to have the chance for another 4 years (by making me more popular), then I am probably pretty motivated to do my best. Therefore, Con's "legacy questing" argument is not a reason to vote Con.

As for corruption prevalent in 2nd terms, Con really only makes passing references to Reagan's and Clinton's "scandals"/"affairs" (I actually, honestly, know very little about either of those), which is not a big enough problem to get me to vote Con. Con also refers to the basic fact that the longer you are president, the easier it is to get re-elected by pulling strings. But why is this actually bad? Con's only examples of "corruption" are Nixon's subsidy-for-campaign-finance trade and super PACs. Why is it bad to do what basically amounts to doing favors in exchange for a big advertising budget? How do those favors hurt the American people?

- The people change their behavior during the president's 2nd term because it is guaranteed that the next president will be one of them. Is that change in behavior good?

Con refers to Cuba and basically concludes (I think) that there is less incentive to run for president when your opponent is incumbent than when your opponent has never been president; therefore, there is less incentive for the next generation to even aspire to politics; therefore, there will not be enough skilled leaders to run an effective government if A22 is repealed. However, Pro points to the sheer number of political positions in the US and says there is absolutely no risk of running out of qualified leaders even if people are less enthusiastic about the pipe dream of becoming president. That pretty much kills Con's argument.

- Who the president is changes. Is a 3rd term president better than a 1st term president? I consider this to be the heart of the issue and the previous two issues to be mere side effects.

Basically, Pro says he would be more experienced, and Con says he would be more corrupt, and maybe old and decrepit, at least if he is stubborn enough to keep running for office past his prime.

Believe me, I looked and looked for tangible reasons why an experienced president is better than an inexperienced one. Is a first-time president not also a highly qualified leader? All I got was an uninformative quote from James Madison and the assertion that experience > a fresh perspective. At least Con helps me vaguely imagine how new blood might be an advantage.

In conclusion:

I can sort of see why a frequent rotation of presidents keeps us from getting stuck with an old president who is self serving and/or unable to adapt to the times, and I cannot see why experience serving as the president makes you a better public servant than someone who has different kinds of leadership experience.

Of course, I just as easily could have voted Pro if I prioritized experience over freshness. Trying to judge this debate was like trying to figure out if a picture frame leans left or right just by eyeballing it.