Monday, May 21, 2012

How Long is Too Long?

Last week, while talking with friends, one of them brought up the length of France's recent presidential campaign.  It was 3 months from beginning to election.  Lots of head shaking around the table.  Why is it so short?  Are the French just more efficient than we are?  But the French are not the only ones who have much shorter presidential campaigns than we do.  In fact, I'd hazard a guess that probably every other country in the world has shorter presidential campaigns than we do -- at least those who hold free elections.  Coups are the shortest of all political campaigns.

What's it all about, huh?  Aw, come on.  The United States of America launches its presidential election campaigns a good 18 months, if not longer, before the actual election date.  Why?  Well, clearly, we must need the time to get organized, even though the long campaigns make our politicians look really disorganized.  Our politicians do tend to get sidetracked, e.g. John Edwards.  Our politicians also need the time to write a book about their lives and their beliefs to buttress their campaigns.  Our politicians also need the time to make up their minds whether they will run or not.  They need time to network, hire their campaign staffers who will then run the campaign for them.  But above all, they need time to raise money.  Oh, and not only the candidates.  Now we have "superpacs."

Yeah, it's all about the money, stupid!  Politics in this country is big business.  President Eisenhower warned us of the "military-industrial complex" before he left office, but what we really need to keep tabs on is the "political-industrial complex."  And then, of course, there's the mainstream media that's supposed to provide balanced and informative coverage of the campaign.  Add the internet to that game and what we get is the biggest show in the world with millions of dollars pouring into it.  Some days, it all seems way too much for an election.  Especially when elections in other years rarely receive the same amount or intensity of attention.  Maybe it should be a reality show?  Where's Mark Burnett?

Americans live to make money.  It is the purpose of our lives.  Think about it.  Only those who are financially independent, i.e. filthy rich, can truly pursue what they love to do, unless they're OK with being poor.  Money speaks and everyone listens.  Those with money have the influence and the power, and of course are sought by politicians for campaign contributions.  There is not supposed to be any quid pro quo as a result of a contribution, either.  But when money speaks, politicians listen. 

So, here's a really old idea: take money out of the picture (aka campaign finance reform).  This could cut at least a year off the campaign length, leaving 6 months. We could have 3 months for the primary campaign at the end of which the parties have their conventions.  Then 3 months of national campaigning.  Done.  The politicians can focus their time more on governing than on campaigning. 

How would the candidates pay for their staff?  For advertising?  For all the expenses incurred during campaigning, excluding pregnant mistresses?  We already have public campaign funds set aside for candidates -- we check the box on our income tax returns each year.  You don't?  Well, why not?  That money needs to be allocated equally among the candidates, whatever has been collected over the year or over the 4 years since the last election. 

And I think any advertising done on TV, radio or in print needs to be free as a public service message.  Every candidate gets the same amount.  How they use it is up to them.  If they squander it, that's their problem.  No more PACs.  No more SUPERPACs.  These are also old ideas no one had the nerve to implement.

We've seen in the last year how fluid a long presidential campaign is now.  Gingrich announces and is in, then he's out, then he's in again, and now he's out again.  Americans must endure the likes of Rick Perry and Herman Cain, and in this election, there's only one party that needs to choose a candidate.  When there's two, we get double the scandal and idiot gaffes.

Shorten the campaigns for the American elections, especially the presidential election!  Taking money out of the picture will certainly help shorten them.  Make elections about who will govern and not about big business or buying power and influence in Washington.  Write your representatives in the federal government!  Let's join the rest of the world and have shorter political campaigns!


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