Talking politics and how government work is not sexy, but when you studied political science and write a political thriller, it is kind of necessary to explore.
There tends to be two types of democratic systems of government, the presidential system and parliamentary system, both have their strengths and their weaknesses. There are aspects of both forms of government which are good. From the presidential system, fixed terms allow for in theory a stronger continuity of government, with no official votes of no confidence or immediate or surprising resignations of prime ministers. From the parliamentary system, allowing the chief executive and ministers are held accountable by the legislature, however there are no set terms. There is an additional problem with the parliamentary form of government, is the members who are selected as executive ministers are still responsible for executive and legislative duties.
In the United States, our system of government was created to have, in theory, three equal branches of government, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. However, our system of government is at least in the modern era not achieving much. People elected to the House of Representatives are there for 2 years before having to face re-election. In practice, if they are elected in November 2018, they are sworn in January 2019 and by January 2020, they are in an election year. In theory, the 2 years to a term is supposed to allow the electorate to have a say in who represents them but in reality, 90% of incumbents win re-election.
The Senate is a bit different as senators are elected to 6-year terms, and 1/3 of the seats are up for re-election every 2 years, compared to every 435 seats in the House of Representatives. This sets up in every non-presidential election year a “mid-term” election, which is seen as a referendum on the current presidential administration, generally the President’s party loses some seats in the Legislature.
It generally takes a year or two for a newly elected lawmaker to get the hang of the way the House and the Senate works. In the House, this means their first term is pretty much spent learning the ropes then facing re-election. A good alternative would be to expand the term of a Representative from 2 to 4 years, but every 2 years one-half of the house would face re-election. This would still preserve the traditional “mid-term” election and referendum of the current political party in power.
This is only one alternative to current government. In Within the Grasp of Ordinary universe I created, there is a mixed presidential/parliamentary system. There are three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The Executive is headed by the President who is elected to a six-year term, the Legislative is divided between a Senate and House of Representatives, but executive responsibility does lie in the domain of the Senate. The Senate advises and consents on the President’s nominations for filling Executive Branch positions and Judicial nominations. In addition, the Senate has a special committee the Senate Executive Committee, whose chairperson is in the Presidential Chain of Succession. There is the Judicial Branch, which really isn’t much changed from how it currently works in the presidential or parliamentary forms of government.
Another contentious debate in the modern system is the call for term limits, I’m in the middle of the road on this issue. I believe the President is rightfully term-limited at two 4-year terms, though a President can technically serve close to 10 years. If President A were elected and started his term on January 20, 2017, the halfway point would be January 20, 2019. If President A were assassinated on January 21st, 2019, the Vice President would be sworn in and finish out his term – without the term counting against them for term-limits. However, if the President was assassinated before the halfway point of their term, the Vice President would have the rest of the term count against their term-limit.
Getting back to term limits, for lawmakers it is generally good to have experienced lawmakers, who understand the system and how to craft legislation. It is also good to have young, inexperienced people get elected and bring new or different ideas into the legislative body. This rarely happens under the current political system in the United States since 90% of incumbents are re-elected. The idea is to impose term limits to force change. While I don’t disagree with the need for change, I believe the background of a lawmaker needs to be changed. It currently requires hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to get elected to the House or Senate, there is no real publicly funded election system. If there was, there would be more candidates from less well-off or poor economic backgrounds. I think having a more economic diverse Legislative body would do the nation wonders.
In the Ordinary universe, all Executive and Legislative positions are capped at a total of 24 years, with Representatives serving 4-years and Senators at 6-years a term. A person can be elected as a Representative for 3 terms, total of 12 years, then decide to run for Senate and serve 2 terms. If the person decides to serve 4 terms as a Representative or 16 years, they can still serve 2 terms as a Senator, they aren’t just kicked out after hitting 24 years, they will serve the remainder of their term but won’t be eligible for re-election. The President is capped at two 6-year terms, and a person can easily serve 24 years as a Representative or Senator before deciding to run for President.
I know it’s not fully in-depth about how the full political system in modern America needs to be reformed (that would be a very long, time-consuming project) or how the whole political system in my Within the Grasp of Ordinary and sequel novel works. It’s just a small glance at the system and there are parts which are there to be explored – by reading the book(s).