When the first rounds of Democratic debates kicked off in late June, there were 496 days until the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Sitting in a hotel room in western Michigan, I unleashed a Twitter rant about the absurdity of it all. My main point was this: election season is too goddamned long.
Now, the rant wasn’t based on some “yuck, politics, how boring” or “I stay out of politics” kind of stance. No, it was based on fatigue. You may ask how one could be fatigued during the first debate of the cycle, and my answer would be that the 2020 presidential campaigns actually started on January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Trump essentially started vying for reelection, and those who don’t support him started planning to get him out of office.
John Delaney declared his candidacy just six months into Trump’s term. Yup, he declared he was running a full three and half years before the election. That’s just ridiculous, y’all.
(Coincidentally, his candidacy was unofficially declared dead after he was bodied by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the July 30th debate.)
It is my earnest belief that election season should be reduced significantly, by law, to somewhere around 60-120 days. When I tell people this, their usual response is something like, “that’s not long enough, we need to get to know the candidates.” To which I respond: shouldn’t we already know who they are when they announce their candidacy through their work in previously held public office?
When you start campaigning this long before an election, you’re main responsibilities as senator, representative, governor, etc., take a back seat to your campaign. Instead of, you know, handling their job as an elected official of the United States, they focus on jockeying for position for the future election. That’s not to say they completely stop working, but it laughable to think it doesn’t affect their performance. By allowing campaigns to run for over a year, we’re basically turning the election for the highest public office in our country into the race for prom court.
Now, when I say we should shorten the election window I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t think about issues until the election season, quite the opposite in fact. I believe that shortening the season would allow us to actually focus on the issues at hand. We could form our own opinions as opposed to figuring out which stance to take to rep our candidate of choice. And when the time came, we would already have well thought-out opinions on issues, and could match them to the candidate with similar views.
One of the most toxic aspects of American politics is the “us vs. them” attitude. Now, shortening the cycle alone won’t fix this (down with the two-party system!), but it would go a long way to help erase the “we’re right, you’re wrong” mindset that plagues American politics.
The idea that we couldn’t get to know candidates, hold debates, run campaigns and hold elections a window of 90-120 days is kind of laughable to me. Of course we could, hell, there are already plenty of countries that practice this very concept. A major benefit of this is voters who don’t get burned out and exhausted by the endless campaigning. Shortening the election cycle to, say, 60 days would take the weight off of voters and increase voter participation, something that is pretty pathetic here. Furthermore, it would reduce campaign spending, and we all know how dangerous money in politics can be.
Mandating a shorter election season isn’t the only cure to our ills, there are numerous other options that could help – putting legal limits on spending, outlawing attack ads, and automatic voter registration are all wonderful ideas. Hell, there’s even the idea of compulsory voting – that is to say that voting is mandated by law, and you’re fined if you don’t. This, of course, is a delicate subject, one I’m not even sure I support. However, it has helped immensely in Australia, where voter turnout has stayed above 90% since the law was put into place.
I know what you’re next question is: “Well, smart guy, why don’t you tell us how we do this?” My answer: how about we task those more qualified than me, those who major in political science and work in the field? That’s what they’re here for.
The American political system needs major overhauling. How about we start by tearing down the tents to the three ring circus that is the presidential election?