Doesn’t it just seem like the presidential election is always around the corner? I mean, we only elect a president every two and a half years—so why does presidential news seem ceaseless?
Wait, two and a half years? Yes. Political campaigning begins about a year and a half before the election, and continues with only increasing intensity throughout. I honestly had to ask myself more than once if the election was this year. It angers me that the presidential campaigning has already begun—it’s annoying and it hurts democracy.
In 2015, Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for president on June fifteenth: 512 days before the presidential election. Donald Trump announced his candidacy the day after Jeb Bush. What about Hillary Clinton? April twelfth: 576 days before. And Bernie Sanders? April 30.
Those numbers are outrageous. It averages one year and a half before the presidential election. Contrarily, the campaign for the 2015 UK General Election, in which the prime minister is elected, lasted only five weeks this year, compared to seventy-eight weeks here.
Personally, I hate hearing about presidential campaign news. I really don’t care yet that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders are running.
The complexity of the campaign and the amorphousness of political platforms makes it difficult for me to keep up with the views of the politicians.
I would much prefer to be given one month before the primaries to figure out which candidates I want to win, and then have another month of campaigning before the actual election in order to decide on the president that I really want.
This campaign scheme gives me a more concise view of the presidential candidates than the current sprawling system. Additionally, it only takes two months every four years—not eighteen or more.
Most importantly, the longer campaigns mean more expensive campaigns. Obviously, the best outcome of any election is to elect the best candidate for the position. The capacity to run a long election does not imply the greatest qualification for the position. But candidates who get more money typically campaign longer.
This principle provides an interesting corollary: Candidates who have or can get more money tend to do well.
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush all have personal capital and connections to help support a campaign, and are all considered major candidates in the 2016 election.
Maybe the reason that they are major candidates is because they campaign for longer—it makes them seem more well established, and in this first-past-the-post system, only the top two candidates really matter.
It’s worth mentioning that Bernie Sanders is an interesting exception to this corollary in that he refuses to be funded corporately and relies heavily on individual donations. But as I said, he is an exception.
In other words, the candidates with the most money tend to hold longer campaigns, causing people who hold shorter campaigns to seem less major and therefore less qualified.
At this point, you might wonder about Barack Obama, who was not extremely wealthy at the time of his election. He received endorsements from Oprah Winfrey for his viability as the president, and many others afterwards.
In fact, Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore, economists at the University of Maryland, College Park, determined that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsements were at the least a decisive, and potentially the deciding, factor in his candidacy, netting him more than one million votes in the primaries.
Such inequalities reflects a failure of the system to help choose a candidate who fulfills the primary goal of the election: choosing the best candidate for the position.
Can’t we just have a single transferrable vote?