David Orentlicher prepares for a photo shoot

David Orentlicher prepares for a photo shoot at Indiana University Law School in Indianapolis Monday, April 8, 2013. Orentlicher, who is the author of Two Presidents Are Better Than One, is a law professor at Indiana University and has taught law at the University of Chicago. (Danese Kenon, Chicago Tribune / April 8, 2013)

He's a doctor, a lawyer, a university professor and a one-time politician (in the Indiana House). With all that education and real-life experience, it might be surprising that David Orentlicher would propose such an unlikely — some would say ridiculous — solution to end partisan gridlock in Washington: He wants to double the number of presidents. In his book, “Two Presidents Are Better Than One,” he argues that the winner-take-all president has way more power than intended by the founding fathers and that's the main reason for intense and growing toxic partisanship in the capital.


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But, what if there were power sharing between co-presidents, each from a different party? They'd have to compromise to get anything done, he argues. Although it sounds bizarre, Orentlicher, who teaches law at Indiana University, makes a reasoned argument for 50-50 power-sharing.

He concludes, "Two heads really are better than one."

Printers Row Journal spoke with Orentlicher recently. Here's an edited version of the conversation.

Q: Make sure I understand your proposed process: Every state has a primary, Democratic and Republican. Ultimately there will be a Republican presidential nominee, a Democratic presidential nominee and perhaps, as you point out, it's more likely a third-party nominee? And the top two vote getters win?

A: Right.

Q: You also want to wipe out the Electoral College. Good luck with that.

A: What leads to major change is when things break down. So, if it keeps getting worse, then I think more and more people will say, "We really need to change our system. This is just intolerable."

Another reason I try to be optimistic about this: Who's going to drive this decision making? The parties will. The media will. But also the people who fund campaigns who are spending the hundreds of millions of dollars. From a large corporation's perspective, we hear all the time they care about predictability and stability. So, if they know there will be bipartisan governing, that should be attractive to the corporate world. So if they pursue their self interest they're very influential. It doesn't necessarily have to come from the bottom up, grass roots. It could come from the powers that be.

Q: Money talks?

A: Right.

Q: When I first heard your scenario — two presidents and their families living in the White House, two presidents requiring two Oval Offices — it made me think of a French farce.

A: People say, "How can they agree? They just bring their fighting into the White House." (But) the desire for power and to leave a legacy is much more important than whatever their core principles are.

Maybe this is because I served in the legislature and worked with people. I saw that you just can't take their statements at face value. They're far more flexible than they let on.

Q: I would never underestimate a politician's desire to acquire power, even if instead of 50-50 it's 50.01 percent. You disagree?

A: The fact they have to deal with each other, make many decisions together over a definite time period — when you have those kinds of relationships, people do cooperate.

Q: Your dual presidency suggestion is premised on the notion that the single presidency is the reason there is so little bipartisanship in Washington. But there's just a ton of squabbling in both the Senate and the House. I'm failing to understand why that all originates with the single presidency.

A: So much of what goes on in Congress is driven by the Big Prize. So if they don't have the presidency to fight over any more it becomes less about power. Now why won't they just fight over control of Congress? They will. You can't eliminate all partisan competition. The question is how much of it is about winning and beating the other side? How much of it is about legislative accomplishments, getting things done.

Q: And what is your answer?