Would the US be better off without a fixed term executive branch?

All that seems to do is create the situation where we have a majority that don’t like what’s happening and they have to look two years away to envision any change.
The vote of no confidence, scheduling new elections whenever it seems necessary, seems more reasonable.
What’s wrong with that. ( Except of course our religion of The Holy Founding Fathers Knew Everything Best. :smiley: )

What mechanism should we use to determine when a new election should take place? Does congress issue the no confidence vote?


Does your system hold an election only for President, or for the legislature as well? 'Cause that’s the thing about a vote of no-confidence in a parliementary system - everyone gets to go defend their job.

Not necessarily - if the government falls on a motion of non-confidence in the Westminster parliarmentary system, that doesn’t automatically trigger a general election. If another group of MPs can command a majority in the House, they could form a new government, replacing the one that’s lost confidence.

Only the Queen can dissolve Parliament in most Westminster systems. The House can’t dissolve itself. If the government falls on non-confidence, and there’s no alternative group able to form a government, the Queen may then dissolve the House and trigger an election.

Japan has a system whereby the prime minister can be replaced as desired. For the most part, all the has lead to is that the prime minister becomes a fall man and that there is no single person able to push through legislation (except through establishing power via backroom deals.)

Obviously it doesn’t need to be that way as shown by the UK, but it does demonstrate that getting rid of term lengths doesn’t really impact anything. The system will work or not based on how seriously people take it.

(Interestingly, Japan has had twice the number of Prime Ministers as the US has had Presidents, though they’ve had 100 fewer years of having a prime minister.)

This is a good point, if congress was of the same party as the president, you would never get a sitting president out of office, instead having to dispose of the congressmen first. If it was a different party, with the climate of today’s US politics, you’d see a no confidence vote every other week. If “the people” get to determine it, there would be non-stop chaos.

The U.K. does have term lengths in the House of Commons: 5 years is the limit. But the uncertainty - the ability of the PM of the day to request a dissolution - keeps the opposition on their toes. For instance, I expect that the Tories are really worried that Brown or Blair will call an early election; equally I think the Lib Dems are hoping for it.

Who is Brown?

The thing is, the President isn’t like any Congresscritter. Presidential elections involve a lot of time, money, and there’s a totally different system going on (i.e., the Electoral College); you can’t just have the most prominent member of the majority party become the President. Besides, as it is now, there will be another election in two years. In a parliamentary system, you’d have to live with it for up to three.

Rt Hon. Gordon Brown, MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, widely expected to succed Blair as leader of the Labour Party when Blair steps down, hence automatically becoming PM.

Similar proposals have been discussed here and here. I think there are some relevant objections in those threads.

One issue is that Americans like being able to choose their President. In a Parliamentary system, the head of government is of necessity chosen from the parliamentary delegation belonging to the government (majority) party or coalition. This would mean that instead of the former governor of Texas running against the senator from Massachusetts, with all voters having a say in the choice, we would elect senators and representatives, who would then name either Dennis Hastert or Nancy Pelosi as head of government, with nobody but San Franciscans and some Illinoians ever having had a say in who they were.

Either you have independence with checks and balances between the Executive and the Legislature, or you have the coordinated structure of a parliamentary democracy. If the President can be removed by a vote of no confidence (as opposed to impeachment) with no way to defend himself in the voting body, you end up with postwar Italy or 4th republic France, which changed their government as often as their underwear.

It might be interesting for someone with the requisite knowledge to define the mixed system of 5th republic France, and how it might or might not be adaptable to American institutions.

A majority of the people? Are you talking about some kind of citizens referendum to challenge the sitting president and force elections, or something along the lines of what the Brits have? Because thats not exactly the same thing.

Personally I think our system, by and large, works best for us…just as the Brits (and others) seem comfortable with their own system. I know you don’t like Bush and all but I don’t think that we should throw out our entire system just because you want to get rid of him early. :stuck_out_tongue:

Could you go into some details? Are you talking about the US adopting the system used in the UK exactly? There are some major drawbacks if you are talking about trying to transplant it whole into our country. Are you talking about trying to work in the existing framework…just adding something like the power of the congress to call for a confidence vote on a sitting president…er, or something?

Can’t really have this discussion without some details on exactly what you are getting at.

Whats wrong with the system we’ve got? After all, its worked for over 200 years, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

I suppose to answer this question you need to say if we are talking about transplanting the UK Parliamentary system to the US completely, or if not, exactly HOW we would implement what you are getting at (whatever it is).


I should really know chapter and verse on this, but it has been a long time.

My understanding is that the Queen invites a Prime Minister to form a Government, but the Prime Minister is the one who calls a General Election (up to the 5 year max).

The last two times it happened was Eden -> Macmillan and Wilson -> Callaghan and in neither case was there a vote of confidence - both were shoe-ins.
Oops - I forgot about the defenestration of Maggie.

When Blair goes we might have a situation without a clear precedent, I would not be surprized if he pulls a stunt like having an electoral contest for the future leader of the Labour Party - and threatens to call an election if nobody emerges with a clear mandate. I’m assuming that Labour MPs will implode in an orgy of infighting.

A bit of a hijack, but of interest to UK Dopers.

@Pliny, it looks as if the USA constitution (or rather electoral system) is designed to reflect mid term changes in support. The President is capable of being hamstrung by Congress - and their members are rotated rather all changed at once.

In other words, the system is deliberately designed to prevent sudden changes, it has a sort of moving average (hysteresis :slight_smile: ) built in. To change such a fundamental part of the structure could have unexpected and rather unpleasant side effects.

I think it’s bad idea. The guy in office would be constantly on the reelection campaign. The the modern era of buying votes by giving things to the people (which had to be taken from the people in the first place), we would soon bankrupt the country.

Also some concepts take time to implement, some visions that have one at the ballot box may take a very long term to come about. It is not fair to elect someone for their long term vision and kick them out because the long term vision was in the painful building stage.

Lets take Al Gore as a example, and lets exaggerate a whole lot. Year one he gets elected on his pledge to make every American carbon neutral. Year 2 he implements this, The cost of carbon credit sore, while gasoline prices fall since no one can buy a gallon of gas w/o the corresponding carbon credit. The poor and lower middle classes suffer, they can’t afford to drive or heat their home. In year 3 they vote out Al Gore and get rid of his plan. If Gore had the time to complete his plan we would have build infrastructure for carbon neutral fuel.

Give the vote to the Senate, and to the Supreme Court.

Then, it’s cool.

This would tend to remove Presidents only on need.

And what a good idea it would be, too!

Watching a lame duck President is pretty amusing

  • possibly it prevents moderately sane presidents from being really daft
  • being a ‘limpdick’ president is not that pleasant :slight_smile:

What business does the Supreme Court have in deciding to remove a sitting President?


Kanicbird, may I say that that was a remarkable post, and congratulate you on it?! :slight_smile:

FRDE, I too am not an expert here, but it’s my understanding that the P.M. asks (not “advises”) the Queen for a dissolution, and that she is free to deny him that if she believes another stable government can be formed. In practice, she will normally grant his request but does have the prerogative to choose based on the overall political situation and the good of the country as she sees it.

Our presidential term limits were established in 22nd amendment ,passed in 1951. Until then we could have possibly had a president for many years.