The Elephant In the Middle of the Election: Presidential Campaigns Are TOO Long


I swear to God, I've aged eons since this election cycle began; the image above would be funny if it weren't so true. Why does it take Americans so damn long to elect a president? Why? It only took eight months for me to decide to marry my husband; just half a year is needed to grow enough wheat to feed the nation; hell, only nine months is required to gestate an entire human being... why does it take two freaking years to elect a president??

American bloat, that's what. It's in our DNA. We like things BIG. Big movies, big portions, big tits, big cars, big houses, and, it seems, BIG presidential campaigns. Which translates into LONG presidential campaigns. Which might be a fascinating civic exercise if it weren't for the hideous amounts of money being raised, spent, lost and won in the process of it all. Las Vegas of the Beltway.

As I watch the growing list of "Weird Things Ben Carson Said Today," make note of the continued caterwauling amongst GOP debate participants, check what St. Bernie supporters accuse Hillary (or the media) of this week, or register the thinning novelty of the Trump & Pony Show, one thing becomes categorically clear:

Our presidential campaigns are TOO LONG.

Not just a little too long, but waaaay too long. And like anything that's gotten out of control--blockbusters that need an edit; wayward children left to entertain themselves; idle hands that attract the devil's handiwork--this ridiculous pageant of political pomposity (I did that on purpose) needs abbreviating to a size that resembles any measure of logic. Did you not find it stunning to witness our northern neighbors somehow manage to elect a prime minister in less than three months? Apparently Canadians are a more decisive lot than we "I haven't decided yet" folks down here in the lower regions, and for people as competitive as Americans, you'd think that would've stirred some reflexive response! But no... we're arguing about who's been kicked to the kids table, or who lied about which lie, and we're still a year away!!

I got tired just writing that.

I addressed both angles of this phenomena years ago--the unfathomable reluctance of the "undecideds," as well as the general and interminable length of presidential campaigns--and as we sit here in the year 2015, still manipulated into believing we need years to pick a prez, I know I'm not the only one who finds this disturbing American pastime cause for debate. A quick check confirms that pretty much every major media news source has covered some slant on the length, breadth, and cost of elections. Yet every go-around it seems the cycle begins even sooner.

One has to ponder the psychology of this metastasizing trend. At a time when political conversations revolve around "big/small" government, childhood/elder poverty; the cost of social programs, the military budget, a troubled economy, and job statistics, why do we, as an electorate, tolerate this buffet of bloat? And what can we do about it?

Way back in 2012, Yale law professor, Steven L. Carter, made two suggestions at Bloomberg View:

[1] Repeal the $2,500 limit on individual campaign contributions. The need to raise lots of money is one of the principal drivers of the long campaign. The academic evidence largely suggests that the contribution limits, like other attempted financial reforms, simply increase the advantage of incumbency. Many of the arguments in favor of the limitations posit the evil billionaire who will fund a candidate he will then control. But as long as disclosure is required, so we know who is paying for whom, it isn't obvious that the billionaire shouldn't be allowed to try. The quixotic 1968 presidential run of Senator Eugene McCarthy, a campaign that forced President Johnson from the race, was funded largely by a small number of wealthy contributors, led by the philanthropist Stewart Mott. In the current climate, McCarthy probably would not have run, and our public dialogue would have been worse for it.


[2] Either reduce the number of primaries or find ways to increase the number of unpledged convention delegates. The more delegates that remain up for grabs, the later a candidate can decide to get into the race. There is no particular reason to reward those who choose to start their run early. Our ideal should be to nominate the best possible candidates and elect the best possible president, not to drive potential leaders to the sidelines because they choose not to spend two or three years in nonstop pursuit of the purple.

Both of these sound reasonable. Any others?

Scott Rasmussen at RealClearPolitics suggests we "randomly select a different pair of states to go first" in each primary cycle, additionally advising that "a shorter campaign season makes it easier for a wider variety of candidates to get involved."

Raymond A. Smith, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow with the Progressive Policy Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia and New York Universities, made several suggestions in a 2013 Daily Beast article titled, Too Soon For 2016! How To End Our Endless Presidential Election Season, the most astonishingly simple one being the most elegant: legally mandating a shorter election season.

How do we get that on a ballot? I'm serious. How do we get that on the ballot? Let's figure that out and get it trending.

Because while we're busy ignoring SNL this weekend, wincing over the insanity of the two GOP frontrunners, or wishing supporters of the two Dem candidates would stop behaving like tantruming children, a lot of serious time and money is being wasted, wasted, by the ridiculous length of an activity that should not take more than a few months to accomplish.

Rasmussen's suggestion to start the process on January 1 of an election year makes more sense than anything I've read about elections in a long time. That still makes our cycle a good seven months longer than Canada's, but at least then we'd be able to keep the chaos within one calendar year. That alone would make the carnival that follows a bit more tolerable and a lot less expensive.

Call your congresspeople... let's get this going. 2020 will be on us before long and there's absolutely no reason to start all that before 2019.

Original "Standing Skeleton, leaning on plinth" from Wellcome Images @ Wikimedia Commons


2015-03-24-1427183048-6439243-HLfrontcover_sm.jpg Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Rock+Paper+Music. Access details and links to her other work at, and her novels, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH and HYSTERICAL LOVE at her author pages at both @ Amazon and Smashwords. Watch her book trailer for AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH here, and be sure to follow her adventures in independent publishing at her book blog,