Okay, so it's obvious we don't want Rod Blagojevich choosing a replacement to fill Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. But is it obvious we want any governor to have that power?
Of all the things a governor has the authority to do, this is the one that reeks most of King George III. One senator, Dick Durbin, holds his office because the people of Illinois voted for him. The other, to be named later, would hold his or hers just because the governor said so. Neither the legislature nor the courts nor the voters have any role.
Even absent corrupt motives, that role asks too much of any governor. No one can accurately represent the wishes of the people of the state, and no one should try.
If a House seat opens up more than six months before the next regular congressional election, it's filled by a special election, letting the people choose their representative. But if there are less than two years left in a Senate term, they have no say for that entire period. It's an insult to democracy.
Why do we tolerate this procedure? Partly because it's invoked so rarely, making it hardly worth our time to change it. And partly because special elections are expensive. But so are regular elections, and nobody proposes to save money by doing away with them.
The people of Illinois chose Barack Obama to be their senator. Now that he's moved on, they are the only ones who should choose his successor.
This episode powerfully illustrates why governors should not have the power to appoint senators. It also suggests that governors might have other powers that invite corruption and also need to be limited or stripped. Now would be an opportune time to look for some of those.
[HT: Kevin O'Reilly in the comments below]