How to clone a candidate

I have been discussing electoral schemes in which something that might come up in some versions would be parties winning bigger shares of legislative body (or other multi-member) seats than they ran candidates–indeed in some versions any time a party wins a solid majority of total seats, this would be sure to happen, as the body is double the size of the number of districts candidates run in! This raises the question of a reasonable way to fill the list with members beyond those who actually ran, with knotty issues of public confidence in unelected persons and concerns about party power.

I propose that in these cases, the top performing candidates in whatever number is needed to fill out the excess be “cloned,” sending two persons from their same district–or anyway vesting in them the decision about where the extra member comes from. These candidate-winners are the biggest winners for their party and thus their districts are presumably the most amenable to double representation and the most appropriate source of such. By making it a fixed rule, the ability of party officials to manipulate the outcomes is minimized; it turns on voter choice, not a party or governor appointment.

I suggest candidates in elections name deputies, vetted as party procedures provide for if any, prior to the election, who can assist them in various ways normally if the candidate wins, but if the candidate needs to be “cloned,” the deputy is the default first choice for that honor.

That way the voters at least know before voting who that would be, and probably as a quid pro quo for being named deputy, which normally with a win would involve ongoing assistance of the candidate as delegate to the multi-member body, the deputy was deeply involved in the election campaign and thus is known as the trusted agent of the candidate, thus being the best person to clone the candidate.

Normally, the deputy can be authorized by the government running the election and subsequent governing body to do useful things such as run the delegate’s home district offices for constituency services when the body is in session, or run the delegate’s capital office to form a virtual backup body with the other deputies when the candidates return to the home district to “mend fences.” Perhaps they can even be proxies for body business, up to voting proxy on the floor or in committees, or sit in on secondary priority committees. The deputy would thus be deeply involved in the delegate’s ongoing body business.

Another key role of such deputies would be to be the default replacement of the candidate after they become a delegate if something happens to them and they must resign, or are incapacitated, or die in office–alternatives are possible, especially if the delegate were removed for wrongdoing and the deputy is proven or even suspected of being involved, but generally speaking the entities running the election and subsequent governing body structure their succession rules so that they first ask the deputy to succeed, especially since deputies are pre-approved by the former delegate and by the party, and as noted, well known to the voters as reasonably close to a replacement of the lost delegate–as well as being up to speed on the current state of governing body business and their former boss’s current state of negotiations with other delegates in the body. All this boomerangs against the deputy if the delegate is impeached and removed for wrongdoing of course; even if they can prove innocence in the wrongdoing they are under a cloud–they should after all have known better and either stopped the wrongdoing or reported it, whereas if they do report it that shows rectitude but not so much loyalty!

A vexed problem of election of multi-member bodies by any means but single seat FPTP is how to hold an election that reasonably replaces a few members dropping out for whatever reason during a session. In the USA state governors generally appoint replacements–in Nevada, the governor is bound by state law to appoint someone of the party the lost representative came from, but clearly if a governor is of a rival party they can troll this, choosing perhaps a notably poor candidate as a poison pill for the other party, or anyway one they think their own party can later defeat easily. Other states have no such rules and governors routinely replace someone of a party they don’t belong to with one of their own, as Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, Reform Party, did when Democratic progressive standard bearer Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash; Ventura appointed a Reform party Senator; I don’t recall if he later switched to the Republican party, but he was definitely no Democrat. Typically the replacement will be serving only until a special election can be held, or the next regularly scheduled one–in the case of US Senators the Constitution mandates state governors replace a lost Senator and it is quite common for these to be subject to election (sometimes they don’t run and let someone else of their party run instead) on the next regular 2 year general election even if their Senate class would not normally run in that year.

All this, with the caveat about partisan opportunism flipping a seat formerly held by another party, works well enough when elections are for single candidates in a district. But if body members were elected proportionally or any other way in multi-member races, there is no reasonable way to replicate the overall circumstances to choose a reasonable replacement. Gubernatorial appointments are obviously not very satisfactory even if rules about having to choose one of the lost delegate’s own party were imposed and followed in letter.

Americans of course would be broadly familiar with the concept in that the US President is elected in conjunction, as clarified by the 12th amendment, with a Vice Presidential candidate mutually acceptable to themselves and their party; we factor that choice in (usually not very highly, but certainly mudslinging against dubious choices, and finding reasons to find any choice of the rival party dubious and scary, is pretty standard in these elections, at least in my lifetime–I have some actual political memories of the 1968 race, mostly seeing Robert Kennedy’s funeral on my grandmother’s TV while my Dad was away in Thailand flying bombing missions over North Vietnam; I don’t actually recall the Democratic Humphrey campaign ad showing a graphic of text asking incredulously “Spiro Agnew for Vice President??” while someone laughs hysterically in the unseen background, but I have seen it in documentaries since. When GHW Bush aka #43 announced the appointment of his VP candidate, friends in my college situation approached me as a political wonk and asked me if I had heard of Dan Quayle, and I said “Who?” much to their amusement–“Exactly! if you haven’t heard of him…” We do discount the importance typically, but we do pay some attention, and it is taken as a barometer of the character of the main candidate.

So, I think instituting this as a general practice for all elected office is a good idea.

I was inspired to think of it by considering the story of Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, whose political career was launched in the mid-1940s when her husband, running for reelection on the Republican ticket for Representative, died on the campaign trail; the party substituted Mrs Smith who went to Washington–not too unusually, but most such spouse-substitutes (always wives filling in for husbands of course in these days) served just the one term and were replaced with some man next election. But Smith liked the job and dug in to be reelected in her own right, eventually winning office as one of Maine’s Senators; in the Senate she stood up to Joe McCarthy in defense of basic citizen rights and persisted into the 1970s being the sort of somewhat bipartisan creative moderate CES’s official site culture seems to be promoting.

As I say I don’t suppose nowadays spouses would be the usual choice for deputy, unless he or she were willing to also serve in the high pressure representative support position I have outlined, but while I understand there are plenty of political mixed marriages, I don’t really get them; any life partner I would be likely to commit to would almost certainly be someone I saw eye to eye with on general political views, I don’t see how it could be a happy marriage otherwise. Most spouses of politicians probably are not suitable for the role, even when politically compatible, due to quite different interests and strengths, but I certainly would trust a political leader I trusted in general if they said they felt their spouse was the best backup for them; they would not say that if they did not mean it.

I can think of less inspiring examples than Senator Margaret Chase Smith, but by and large this business of a backup candidate is actually not that alien to actual US historical practice and ought to be formalized IMHO.