The problem with American presidential campaigns

Columnist Braden Cartwright

Columnist Braden Cartwright

At last, the final votes are being cast. No longer will the presidential election dominate national news as it has for the past several months. America has reached the conclusion of its seemingly everlasting election season.

American elections are an unusual affair, and unlike any other in history, because of their length. The United States stands out from the rest of the world in how long its campaigns last. Every other country is running a 100-, 200- or 400-meter sprint while the United States is running a marathon. Ted Cruz was the first candidate to enter the 2016 race, a whopping 596 days ago.

That’s one year and nine months of presidential campaigns.
This length is due to a trend of those running announcing earlier and earlier; election season wasn’t always this extensive. The issue manifested itself, but it will not fix itself. Action must be taken to shorten the length of presidential campaigns.

When campaigns are this long, it creates a variety of issues. For one, voters get sick and tired of the election coverage and the candidates. This is especially true this year; just look at the candidate’s favorability ratings.

People get discouraged and may end up not voting. In all election years, voter turnout is an issue. In the last presidential election just 53.6 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, according to the Pew Research Center. This number is astonishingly low and there should be a concerted effort to raise it. Allowing less time would create more energy and excitement. By shortening campaigns, voter fatigue would be reduced and the United States could boast a more respectable voter turnout.

These days, voting feels more like a chore than a privilege. Both candidates have received so much attention. Whether it is scrutiny or praise, Americans have learned so much about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They know the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s hard to blame those voters who have tuned out of the presidential election. Their apathy towards the election comes from the fact that it’s a drawn out debacle that leaves many weary of the whole thing. Changes need to be made to reinvigorate the political process.

Campaigns are the vital backbone of any democracy. They allow a time for voters to get to know their options, and for candidates to be thoroughly vetted for the most powerful position in the country. Candidates go through a grueling schedule of rallies, debates and press conferences. All of this is important, because voters should know exactly who they are voting for.

At this point, though, campaigns are unnecessarily drawn out for too long. Everybody knows who Clinton and Trump are, and if they don’t then they probably aren’t voting. Does anybody really need more time to decide? This late in the year, an undecided voter is an uninformed voter who will be one of the likely 100 million Americans that can, but  choose not to vote.

The day presidential candidates announce their campaigns, the tradition is to set up a website  detailing the stance of the candidate on every important issue. From day one, voters can see what a candidate says they will do while in office. The day-to-day news coverage tends to mostly ignore these subjects and instead focus on the drama of the campaign.

Walking the line between entertainment and politics, the 2016 election has set a dangerous precedent for future elections. Serious reforms need to be put in place to restore the integrity of American elections, and to put a focus back onto the issues. Elections are a serious affair and should not be the never-ending circus that Americans were forced to witness this year.

TIME Magazine was spot on with their cover last week: Clinton and Trump, holding up a sign that reads, “THE END IS NEAR.” It seems that likening the election to the apocalypse has been a popular habit lately.