Long political campaigns are problematic

Katrina Meyer, News Editor

I frequently listen to classical music on Pandora when I am reading something for class. I listen with the volume on high to keep me from getting distracted by what is going on around me. This is a good system for the most part, except for something I distinctly remember spring semester 2015. There was one commercial that I would hear at least three times a day. It involved a deep voice screaming (because I had the volume on high) that ISIS was on the march and our borders were not secure. This voice was running for a position in the Illinois state government. I remember being irritated for a number of reasons, but primarily because it was more than six months out from a STATE GOVERNMENT election, and I was already inundated.

It is 1000 times worse when it comes to federal office, especially the presidency. Primaries are more than a year away, and candidates are already on the campaign trail before the full field of candidates has even been determined. That should be crazy, but it’s not. This happens all the time in American politics, and there are a lot of fundamental problems with that.

One of those problems is the money that it takes to sustain a serious campaign for almost two years. The democratic primary is wide open this year with well over a dozen people already announced and several other expected to in the near future. Only a handful of these candidates have any real chance of winning the democratic bid for presidency. A lot of that is because many candidates do not have enough name recognition to get donations necessary to sustain a campaign that needs to be sustained for nearly two years. Campaigns are expensive, and by drawing out the length, it makes successful campaigns unrealistic for many potential candidates. It also forces many candidates to rely on lobbyists and special interest groups. That is frowned upon politically, but it is also necessary for some candidates who simply cannot afford the current campaign trail.

The result is that even once they win an election, our officials cannot really act in the way that they think would best help the country because they are almost immediately concerned with the next election.”

– Katrina Meyer (‘19)

Another problem is that the campaign trail is too long compared to the terms elected officials serve. In the House of Representatives, representatives serve for two years. Senators serve for six. The president serves for four. If people spend two years campaigning, that is the entire term for a representative, one-third of the term for the senators, and half the term for the president. That means that our elected officials rarely have time in office where they do not need to worry about getting reelected. That impacts decisions made in office. Our officials have to worry about appeasing their entire base if they are focused on campaigning all the time which could mean giving up ideas that they have that are not universal in appeal to not lose any potential supporters. It also means that officials are far more susceptible to pressure from special interest groups because they need their immediate support to finance the campaign. The result is that even once they win an election, our officials cannot really act in the way that they think would best help the country because they are almost immediately concerned with the next election.

As if those reasons are not enough of a concern, no one else in the world campaigns like this. Many other countries have strict legal limits on the length of campaigns with Japan limiting campaigning to 12 days according to NPR. Japan is obviously an extreme example, but no other countries get close to two-year-long campaign trails.

I think that there are a number of fundamental problems with the U.S. election system, and ridiculously long campaign trails is just one of many. But from how expensive these campaigns are to how they impact everyday politics to how annoyed we will all be one year from now, I think that we should notice the fact that we are the only ones doing it this way, and it’s just a bad idea any way you look at it.

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations whith which the author(s) are associated.

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