Here’s a scenario to consider. You’ve just kicked out the king and you and your friends have proclaimed your country a republic. So, how do you pick the president? You will probably declare the person who gets the most votes in a general election is the president. That makes sense. So how do you pick the vice-president? How about the person with the second-most votes for president? That also kind of makes sense because this person was the second-most popular politician in the election.

It may seem obvious that there will be problems with this method, but when the United States of America was a new country and the spirit of camaraderie was still strong, it seemed like a good idea. With time it became apparent that having a president and a vice-president that would get along was a better idea. So, in 1804, the 12th Amendment was passed ending the “first place, second place” method of picking the two highest positions in the American government. (My description of the process is simplified, but the general idea is correct.)

All this shouldn’t seem odd or disappointing. During the original experiment in democracy, in ancient Athens, there were many tweaks to the political process after loopholes were discovered and fairness needed to be restored. Today things are no different.

Up to this point, I have refrained from discussing the embarrassing actions of the current mayor of Toronto. There is quite a bit already discussed in the media and the internet. “Why hasn’t he been thrown out?” is a valid question. The answer is that the proper mechanism isn’t there. The way things are structured, the office of mayor in Toronto is not as strong as it is in many other cities, so it is easier to minimize his impact. Nonetheless, this sad episode points to a need for reform.

Again, this isn’t odd or disappointing. Since humanity isn’t perfect, the democratic process must continuously be adjusted in either small or big ways. Hopefully, if one good thing comes out this debacle, it will be changes to the system. The best we can do is stay vigilant and debate the issues openly and honestly.

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