Over the last few weeks, we have seen more than a half dozen Democrats declare or signal their runs for the White House in 2020. This list includes well-known names such as Elizabeth Warren, as well as relative newcomers such as Kamala Harris and Julian Castro. The stage is being set for a race with huge numbers of Democratic candidates competing in the primaries to be the one to face Donald Trump in 2020. However, the election next year is about 20 months away. So my question is, how long is too long to put the nation through a presidential campaign?
The president himself isn’t immune to this trend either. He filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration, Jan. 20, 2017. In 2016, things didn’t start much later. The first major party candidate, Ted Cruz, announced his campaign on March 23, 2015. I remember that campaign well. There were months of debates and primaries within both parties. Tensions flared among supporters of even the same party. By the time Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were confirmed as the Republican and Democrat nominee respectively, the campaign had already been going on for an exhausting year. Then came months of additional hostility and attacks before the votes finally came in on the night of Nov. 8.
Based on the reactions of people that I’ve talked to about the 2016 presidential election, and living through it myself, it seems like the nation at large was discouraged by the methods employed in the campaigns. Rather than being a constructive discussion about the direction we want our country to take, 2016 and many other elections have turned into exercises of stunning partisanship and finger-pointing.
I personally believe the growing length of our campaigns is contributing to this bad environment. As campaigns keep getting longer, there are fewer days where the media and our country are focused on things other than the coming election. As politics continues to creep into more and more sectors of everyday life, eventually this might shift into an instant switch from one election campaign to another, without much thought about the governing and unifying that should be taking place after the latest election.
Though increased politicization has been a growing trend throughout the world, there is something markedly different the United States could adopt from abroad. This is the idea of a fixed election campaign. Fixed election campaigns mean activities such as advertisements can only occur during the campaign itself. Our northern neighbor Canada had an above-average campaign in 2015, of 78 days. This number doesn’t come close to the years that are spent building up to our presidential elections.
Shorter, fixed-length election campaigns can have great benefits. By putting most election activities into a tight window, it focuses the public’s attention on the election a few weeks before. People aren’t pelted with political advertisements from the beginning of the year, and voter apathy and disengagement can be decreased as people don’t feel like things are dragging on forever.
Campaigns can benefit from this as well. Since they can only put out their ads within the time frame, they don’t have to gather such large sums of money to pay for years-long ad campaigns, and they’ll be fresher in the voters’ minds as Election Day approaches. This would also allow people with less monetary resources to be able to mount credible campaigns, reducing the advantage of large amounts of money being put into elections by Super PACs.
Most of all though, it would allow us to have less drawn out, dividing election campaigns and focus on a relatively small time frame that allows citizens to stay engaged and know when things are going to happen. All of the debates and television ads would start on one day, and be over once the votes are being counted. We could spend less time fighting each other and more time focusing on what really matters.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.
Author: Connor Kockler
Kockler enjoys extensive reading, especially biographies and historical novels, and he has always had an almost inborn knack for writing well. He also enjoys following the political scene, nationally and internationally. In college, his favorite subjects are political science and economics. Two of his other hobbies are golfing and bicycling.