BE DONE THIS YEAR?
But what about this year? Need we just wring our
hands, pray, and hope for the best? No, there is a temporary, makeshift
plan which can eliminate some of these dangers and uncertainties. If our
political leaders are willing to place country above party, and majority
rule above partisan maneuvering, we can prevent the bomb from doing much
damage even if it goes off.
In July I co-sponsored with Charles Goodell, an
outstanding Republican congressman from New York, the bipartisan Goodell-Udall
plan to meet this emergency. We have already been joined by more than 50
congressmen and congressional candidates, by prominent senators and other
political leaders. The proposal has been endorsed "in principle" by Mr.
Nixon and Vice-President Humphrey, and is supported by major newspapers,
New York Times and Washington Post, and the
Daily Citizen, Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Republic
Supporters of this plan come from both major parties,
represent all different political candidates and many different political
philosophies. But we are agreed on some fundamental points:
HOW THE PLAN
||The new 37th President -- the one official who
speaks and acts with a mandate from all Americans -- ought not to owe his
election to any trade or bargain or deal or cloakroom maneuver. He ought
to be that man who receives the most votes.
||A minority presidency, or a "bargained" presidency,
would be crippled and paralyzed before it began and throughout its four-year
term. Our new President should be able to unite and lead our people without
this kind of cloud over his election.
||With vital decisions to be made between November
6 and the inauguration, Americans cannot afford to be in doubt for two
months as to who will take office on January 20.
||A political party ought not to be in a position
to be tempted to use its accidental distribution of House states to elect
a minority President and thus thwart the people's will.
There are some intricacies to the Goodell-Udall
proposal, but its essence is simple: a "gentleman's agreement" that members
of the House of Representatives of the 91st Congress, if required to elect
a President, will vote for that candidate who receives the most popular
votes in the nation. Here's how we propose to put it into effect:
||Congressional candidates -- both incumbents and
challengers -- are asked to pledge in writing that in a contingent election
they will vote, regardless of party, for the candidate with the largest
national popular vote.
||Presidential candidates, party leaders, governors,
senators and opinion leaders will be asked to publicly endorse the plan
and support it. The presidential candidates would specifically pledge that
they would make no Electoral College "deals" to circumvent the popular
||Congressmen taking the pledge will not be bound
unless and until sufficient members have joined to make it fairly certain
that under any reasonably foreseeable outcome we will have sufficient votes
in the House to assure the election of the popular-vote winner.
This sensible gentleman's agreement would
eliminate the period of possible paralysis and uncertainty, would avoid
any temptation to bargain away the presidency. It would bridge the gap
until we can amend the Constitution.
Of course the proposal conceivably could cause
some difficulties for those of us who participate. One of my colleagues
asked me to suppose that Humphrey carries my congressional district, that
Wallace carries Arizona, and that Nixon carries the nation. Would I want
to vote with my district, my state or my nation, he asks? Under the Goodell-Udall
plan I'd be bound, in that case, to vote for Nixon. But the people who
elected me would know in advance of my intention and of my reasons. When
they went to the polls -- even if they voted for Wallace -- the people
would know that their decision -- not mine -- would determine the
THE COUNTRY COMES
Our two-party system is a vital, essential and
uniquely American part of our successful political life. But I've always
held that my country comes first, my state second, and my party third.
This is a case where good men of both parties ought to put the country
first. I hope it works out that way. But whether it does or not, I trust
we will start to amend the Constitution next year and end for all time
the prospect of such a political poker game with the American people putting
up the stakes.