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Insight by Mike Causey: Hoosier choice?

Many wise Washington political pundits believe that the best time to propose election reform is right after the most recent presidential election. So Mike Causey is about to take advantage of this narrow window of opportunity to make a proposal he says is so bold, so clever, so simple (sort of) that you will slap your forehead, and silently curse yourself for not thinking of it ...

So the 2012 election is over—at last. And the only true winners are the TV stations, networks and advertising agencies who are awash in a sea of campaign money.

Some of it came from the pennies of hopeful kiddies. More from foreign and domestic fat cats, movie stars, casino owners and (some claim) even from foreign governments.

So was this the most important presidential election of your lifetime? Or most important ever?

At a closed satellite teleconference in London, political expert Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia, was asked if the 2012 election was the most important ever. The audience was a mixed gathering that included both Americans and Brits.

The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum reported that, without missing a beat, Sabato said the 2012 election was the most important since the 2008 election.

For many people, whether they supported President Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney, it was pretty important. About half of them are happy. Half not so much. But we are probably all glad it is over for another four years—even though the campaigning for 2016 will probably start right after New Year's Day. If not before.

But even if you are among the "happy" group—the winners—are you really happy? As in happy happy, as opposed to just happy?

Years ago, a friend, Lawrence Laurent, the radio-TV critic of The Washington Post, explained to me a theory of why people watch what they watch on TV. This was before cable was widespread. Most of us had to make do with four, five or at most, seven stations—whatever our rabbit-ear antennas would pull in.

Larry said that in most cases, people don't necessarily watch TV because they really wanted to see the program in question. Rather, he said, they more often than not chose the "least objectionable" show to watch. Interesting.

I have applied this idea to political campaigns, especially at the higher levels such as president, senator and governor. In order to gain the nomination—of either party—candidates often have to play mind games, make outrageous statements, etc., to win the base—be it the right wing or left wing—of their political party. We don't see what we are really going to get until after he or she is elected and returns (to some extent) to the real world. Perhaps in these cases, we vote for the least objectionable candidates.

And now, the big idea

Given the cost and the political blood, sweat and tears of this election, I propose that in 2016 we limit the election to the voters of Vigo County, Indiana. According to a co-worker, this remarkable place has picked every winner since 1956. That's Ike through now.

Under my election reforms, the 2016 candidates also would be required to raise at least as much money as they did this year. Some of it could be spent in Vigo County and neighboring spots. But most of the money would go into a pool composed of national charities (Red Cross, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, children's hospitals) and also used to reduce taxes.

No one would be allowed to move into—or out of—Vigo County for the two years before the election. Even before we will know the 2016 nominees. Nor could people who moved into the county register to vote after a date to be determined.

Air pollution would be reduced because Air Force gas-guzzlers (OK, I know it’s jet fuel) like Air Force One and commercial flights wouldn't have to crisscross the skies putting candidates, staffs, crew and the rest of the flying public in danger.

Headquarters for all media and political staff would be in Terre Haute, Ind., and people could live, sleep and shop in Allendale, New Goshen, San Cut and St. Mary's—towns that would appreciate (and trust me, can use) the business.

Cost to the taxpayers of this Vigo County-only election would probably be less than $100, if that. Mostly it would be a big money-maker.

Would we get better candidates under this new system than under the current weird primary system? Probably not. But they are hardly likely to be any worse, either.

Best of all, the bulk of the political press, experts, pundits and their camp-followers would—under this system—perhaps be forced to go out and get real jobs.

And that, in and of itself, would improve the electorate dramatically.

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