It’s ridiculous that this country has to put up with a year or two of overwhelming and divisive political noise prior to its presidential elections.
England can call for a new election, allow a few weeks for candidates to make their views better known and have it over within weeks. In 2005, it was announced on April 5 that the 2005 general election would be held on May 5, leaving one month for campaigning. No one complained. Undecided voters received enough additional information in that month to make an informed decision. It was a similar situation when Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation on April 6, 2010, and the next national election was called for May 6.
In Canada, by law election campaigns must run for a minimum of 36 days, but there is no mandated maximum time. Yet the longest election campaign in Canada in the last 100 years was in 1926, when the campaigning dragged on for all of 74 days.
Why is that? Canadian law doesn’t limit how long politicians can campaign, but it does strictly limit how much money they can spend on a campaign. That’s no matter if it’s the candidate’s own money, or money contributed by supporters or special interests. And Canada seems to have been a pretty well run country over the years.
Greece may not be a good example right now. But ancient Athens was the ‘cradle of democracy’. And even with all its problems, and 10 political parties vying for an opportunity to solve them, Greece can still prepare for elections without long mind-numbing political campaigning. Its Prime Minister resigned on April 12, and called for a national election on May 6, and when the results were fragmented, another national election has been called for June 17. And none of the parties protest that there isn’t enough time to make their views known to voters and have their promises considered.
There is also the nonsensical cost in the U.S., both in money and time that politicians and others take away from the work they could be performing.
An academic study by Stephen E. Bennett, at the University of Cincinnati found that “lengthy campaigns have at least three harmful results: the candidates are exhausted; campaign costs sky-rocket; and the public becomes bored.”
There’s no doubt that costs sky-rocket in longer campaigns.
The United Kingdom’s general elections are spoken of as costing tens of millions in total, while in the U.S. the costs have steadily increased into hundreds of millions and now into billions. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the centre for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending, says “It’s safe to say that given that we had a $5 billion cycle in 2008, it will likely be over $6 billion in this cycle.”
That certainly gives them enough fire power to be in our faces all the time. But is it necessary or helpful?
Voters in the U.S. are just as smart (I think) as those in Canada, the U.K., Greece or wherever. We really could also ‘get it’ after having it hammered at us for only a month or so.
I mean how many times do we need the opinions and sometimes twisted facts about Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama, and their respective party’s positions, hammered at us by the opposing sides and their supporting media friends, before we have enough information to make an informed decision?
My wife tells me she sometimes has to tell me things two or three times before I get them. But 500 times? A thousand times?
I just ‘googled’ the phrase ‘Opinions on 2012 presidential candidates’. The search engine came up with 379 million links to articles and websites.
And the election is still six months away.
Does anyone outside of political pundits, advertisers, polling services, and others profiting from the spectacle really believe that these long mind-numbing campaigns result in a more informed voter?
They don’t! We’ve got their pitches already. And we would have gotten them in plenty of time if the carnival hadn’t begun to run until maybe September.
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