JWA Blog

Are Long Presidential Campaigns In Our Best Interest?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A good friend stated on his blog recently, he felt that long Presidential campaigns were okay. They allow voters time to see how candidates handle the unexpected and long campaigns become the great equalizer, giving the little guy a fighting chance to make a mark. I don’t think long presidential campaigns are ok. I believe they are bad for our country and its future.

I didn’t always feel this way. My interest in politics dates back to my freshman year in high school and the election of John Kennedy in 1960.Presidential campaigns in those days were not quite as long, had fewer state primary elections and did not involve the astronomic requirements for paid staff, consultants, advertising and other overhead. Candidates like Sen. Kennedy stayed in private homes and they campaigned in most states like they always have in New Hampshire. Candidates learned about the unique issues in nearly every state the way you are seeing in New Hampshire this year. Oregon’s primary was relevant in this process and important because it was one of the last prior to the nominating conventions. In 1960 John Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey by 56% to 44% in the Oregon primary and he was chosen the nominee at the Democratic National Convention. I can’t remember when Oregon’s May primary was last relevant and important. The party conventions don’t decide anything and are now orchestrated political infomercials and with the exception of the acceptance speeches by the candidates.

Today, Iowa and New Hampshire are but two small islands in a sea of campaign cash and expenditures driven by the attitudes and resources of the interest groups, business and labor groups that have come to dominate the agendas of the Democratic and Republican Parties. This money has been employed in most instances to attack the character and positions of opposing candidates. Attack advertising is sadly effective and it depresses voter interest and participation. The not so surprising result is that most often the candidates with the most extreme points of view are our nominees not only for President but for Congress and the state legislature as well.

In addition, this perpetual campaign feeds the 24-hour news cycle and dominates it. Combined with the impact of the internet and digital media it has changed the profession of journalism and not for the better. Print journalism that was the source of quality in depth reporting on major issues such as the health of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, national defense and foreign policy, transportation and economic policy is now significantly curtailed. Even greater attention is also placed on the national government instead of state and local issues where we as citizens have a greater opportunity to be involved and make improvements.

So what to do? Frankly, having just witnessed Canada’s recent six-week national campaign resulting in a new government with specific new policy goals and a majority of its parliament ready to take action and be accountable for it I am seriously interested in a U.S. constitutional amendment to select our chief executive in a different way. I believe it would be better than trying to draft a constitutional amendment to take the money out of presidential politics or artificially shorten the campaign.

What I really long for is the day when more Americans embrace the words from President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Al Densmore


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