Time To Shorten the Campaign Season

There is No Need For U.S. Presidential Campaigns to Last For Nearly Two Years


Taylor Chapman

Tanjimul Ambia ’19 believes that politicians are more effective when they campaign less.

The date was July 28th, 2017. In a Washington Post opinion piece, United States Representative John Delaney (D-MD) had just announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election.
While few major presidential candidates began their campaigns as early as Delaney had, this trend of premature declarations still represents a major flaw in the U.S. electoral system: the unregulated length of campaigns. Even candidates who launched after Delaney had still begun much too early. For example, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) all announced their candidacies before the end of January 2019, over a year before the Iowa Caucuses, which mark the beginning of the presidential primaries, and two years before the general election.

“Politicians are so much more effective when they are not trying to campaign. They are more focused on their actual beliefs instead of just what pleases people,” said Tanjimul Amiba ’19.

This is not a universal problem. In Australia, the longest ever presidential campaign was eleven weeks, and in Canada, the record was seventy-four days. France limits its official campaign period to two weeks, and Japan to just twelve days.

The U.S. has not always had this problem. It started in the Democratic primaries for the 1976 presidential election, when Jimmy Carter got ahead of his opponents by launching his campaign in 1974 and spending a lot of time in Iowa, the location of the primaries and caucuses. Other candidates took note of his success, and since then it has become the norm for campaigns to launch years before the actual election day.

The problem is far more serious than the annoying amount of news coverage. Most of the people who run for president are current government officials, such as the aforementioned senators. Having to campaign for a potential presidency distracts them from actually working on legislation that the country needs in the interim. Some politicians even decide to resign early so that they can focus on campaigning. One example of this is Mitt Romney in 2005, who, as the popular governor of Massachusetts, opted to start a campaign for the 2008 presidential race instead of running for a second term. “Politicians are so much more effective when they are not trying to campaign. They are more focused on their actual beliefs instead of just what pleases people,” said Tanjimul Amiba ’19.

Another issue with long campaigns is that it makes candidates focus on fundraising rather than talking about their actual policy. In order to maintain a campaign for so long, candidates need a consistent cash flow, making American politics even more dependent on money. “I think shortening campaigns is necessary in order to get big money out of politics,” said Max Shrader ’21.

An opposing argument is that America’s long campaigns actually bring lower-profile candidates to public attention. For example, nine months before the Democratic primaries for the 1992 presidential election, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton had very little name recognition. He went on to become president of the United States. However, this is not always the case. Parties can still throw their support behind a candidate early on, like the way the Democrats did for Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 election, and help them easily secure their nomination. Not only that, but allowing for candidates who might not have otherwise been taken seriously to run is not always a good thing. Donald Trump took advantage of the long campaign season to become one of the most controversial nominees in modern history.

Obviously, with issues such as healthcare, immigration, and budget deficits, campaign regulations are not the highest priority for many people. However, having such long campaign seasons makes solving these already complex issues even more difficult by diverting resources to campaigns and diverting the attention of voters and politicians alike. It’s time for America to shorten its campaign season and finally focus on the issues that really matter.