I debated on whether I should make this a letter of congratulations or an expression of sympathy. You’re doing a great job with the revolution so far. You ousted a corrupt president who basically faked a series of elections to stay in office for 30 years. Yea, for you. Your military has suspended your constitution, disbanded the parliament and promised to set up a provisional government that will be in place until such a time free elections can be held. Take a moment, celebrate, pat yourself on the back and party your brains out. Things are about to get weird.
This is where the sympathy part comes in. Living and participating in a country with free elections is an exceedingly bizarre experience. You’re about to find out how frustrating living in a free society really is. We’re the oldest democracy on the planet, and we still find ways to screw it up from time to time. You’ll no doubt stumble and make mistakes along the way, too. You may even feel like you’ve blown it on more than one occasion, but as strange as it may sound, that’s freedom.
Here are just a few things you should look out for and avoid as you write a new constitution and build a country centered on free elections.
1. Plan for the future – Our founding fathers did an outstanding job of drafting a constitution for their time. They nailed the human rights points and set up a model form of government. What they came up with was a mind blowing concept for their day. They were men of affluence and power who created a form of government that took the power out of their hands and gave it to the people. Who does that? Who gives up the chance to rule and make themselves disgustingly rich? They were men of altruism. Our greatness comes from their personal sacrifice. They purposely made our constitution ambiguous, something that could grow and adapt to the changing times. We call it a living document. The problem is that we’ve become a divided country. We have two political parties that have very different ideas on how we should grow our country. We can’t agree on what to do about gun ownership, religious freedom, free speech – the basic stuff. Forget about the hard stuff like health care, the economy and foreign affairs. We don’t even come close to getting those things right most of the time. My advice, make your constitution adaptable, but sit down and write down your thoughts on every possible future advancement you can think of. What should be the legally allowable emissions be for flying cars? Can clones vote? What about biologically engineered super smart cock roaches, can they run for political office? Is time travel tax deductible if you go back in time and bet on a million to one shot in a horse race? Laugh if you must, but 200 years from now, the future citizens of your country will thank you for the guidance.
2. Elections suck – The process of freely electing your leaders sounds like a real gas. And the first couple of times, you’ll probably feel inspired and exhilarated after an election, but it doesn’t last. Elections are a perfect crap storm of lies, scandal, corruption and back-stabbing. The worst thing about it all is the electorate by in large is aware that there is nothing genuine about any of their politicians. You know those super smart biologically engineered cock roaches I talked about before? Think of politicians as the super charming versions of them, although they usually aren’t that smart. They look good in suits and hire other cock roaches that package their message in slick, fluffy marketing campaigns. They’ll make promises to get elected and ditch every promise once they get in office. Our founding fathers may have been altruistic, but today’s political leaders aren’t. They are in it for themselves. What can you do to make them accountable? First, don’t let any of them be career politicians. Include term limits for everyone. Longevity breeds a sense of entitlement in your political leaders. Second, outlaw lobbyists. These people are the keepers of the carrots that make your politicians do outright evil things. They will make your free elections pointless. Third, require all your politicians to take a citizenship exam before they can run for office. I don’t care if their citizenship is in question or not. Someone who wants to run your country should know the same stuff you require immigrants to know who want to be citizens of your country.
3. Don’t let them sign their own paychecks – This is going to sound like common sense, but somehow we still haven’t caught on in this country. Our politicians get to decide how much money they make. Seriously, they get to give themselves raises. I’m not kidding. We allow our politicians to line their own pockets. The level of their performance never comes into play. Their incompetence is overlooked. Their constant flaunting of rules and regulations is completely ignored. They reward themselves for failing. How can you avoid this? Require them to put pay raises up for public vote. You hired them. You should be allowed to say what they get paid.
There is so much more you can do to avoid the pitfalls of free elections, but unfortunately, some of them are unavoidable. You’re going to make mistakes by electing the wrong guy. It happens. The great part is you now get to rectify those mistakes in the next election.
So to you, Egypt, I say congratulations/sorry for getting your free elections. This is a wonderful/annoying development for you. Things are about to get so much better/harder for you. You should be very proud/frightened.
Satisfied/Frustrated Citizen of the United States