Presidential Campaigns Are Not Referenda On Everything
October 22, 2011 6 Comments
Everyone knows that Herman Cain, in the process of campaigning for President, has proposed a “9-9-9″ tax system. Everyone also knows that if you like the idea of such a system in all its particulars, you’re ok to vote for Herman Cain, but if you see anything wrong with this system, you can’t vote for Herman Cain. After all, a vote for Herman Cain is a vote for “9-9-9″!
This strikes me as an extremely dumb and annoying feature of Presidential campaigns: people treat them as referenda on whatever proposal the candidates make, about whatever.
Some basic Civics 101: U.S. Presidents do not dictate the tax system in the U.S. That is not part of the job description or powers. If Herman Cain assumes office in January 2013, it is simply not the case that the “9-9-9″ tax system triggers itself into effect automatically, or at the stroke of his pen. Yet, people treat his candidacy and campaign as if precisely that would happen.
If you just sit down to make a realistic assessment of “9-9-9″ in the context of modern U.S. political life you will fairly quickly and inescapably come to the conclusion that it is DOA. Congress would never vote such a thing through as-is. The permanent bureaucracy would not allow it and it is too radical a change to simply ‘implement’. Or at the very least, a massive political shift would have to occur to prep the way, over the course of many years, before it was even thinkable.
So, no, a vote for Herman Cain is not a vote for “9-9-9″. It is a vote for a guy to whom “9-9-9″ seems like a good idea. That is a very different thing, because in reality, Congress is just not going to send the President a “9-9-9″ bill in January 2013. However, a President will be sent this or that tax revision or change, and maybe you think Cain’s tax ideas give you some clue as to which directions he’ll accept and which he’ll veto. Or not. But this has nothing to do with whether you like “9-9-9″ in particular. Again: “9-9-9″ is not on the table and not destined to be anytime in the near future.
This defect of President campaigns shows up when it comes to other issues as well. Just to give a well-worn example, allow me to remind you that Whether Or Not Abortions Are Legal is not a facet of American life that a U.S. President dictates.