OPINION | Is the presidential election over?


Silly me. I guess I must have missed it? Maybe, like Rip Van Winkle, who slept through the American Revolution, perhaps I didn’t notice that there really was an election; and apparently Obama won.  Why would I come to this conclusion? Because here in March of 2013, it seems to me that presidential politics are still in full swing.

Just the other day, House Speaker Boehner stated that Obama was not interested in avoiding sequester, and was just “campaigning”. Campaigning? For what. Last I knew he was limited to two terms. Never the less, the continuous campaign rhetoric attacking Obama goes on – and I get a steady stream of nasty (sometimes scurrilous) emails from my conservative friends describing the dangers of his presidency. If true, within days we could be a third-world, socialist country, in bankruptcy, overrun by indigent immigrants, and with zero influence in the world. Scary!

Then there are those requests for money that keep hitting my email. Money for what? I gave plenty in the pre-election days, and gave a sigh of relief when (what I thought was the election) the campaigns ended. Not so. My liberal colleagues have been daily requesting more money for months now. Solicitations from the DNC, DCCC, DSCC, and other abbreviations I didn’t even recognize — plus Move On, the governors’ race in some obscure state, a prospective congressman fromFlorida(I am aMinnesotaresident), the…well you get the idea. Give us a break!

Moreover, I did more than my share. It is time for a hiatus. Frankly, I am tapped out. Additionally for years I have written brilliant, incisive op-eds and commentaries that have been well published by various media (like this one), in support of causes and candidates I believe in. Well, maybe not brilliant or incisive – but published anyway.

Then there are the petitions. Dozens of them urging immediate action – or else something catastrophic will occur. How can you resist? Save the three-toed sloth’s habitat…the starving Goligans need food (I contributed a package of after dinner mints)…”help — the authorities want to put my dog down”…and tell the Congress “no more nonsense”. I am sure those in Congress are listening. They are inundated with ridiculous email-driven petitions to act responsibly, but clearly to no avail. Besides, the idea of internet-based petitions no longer has much value or influence with politicians: click a mouse with the right list, and get 10,000 signatures. No, the only petition I will sign now is one protecting the lavender bellied road toad (trust me; they really do need our help).

Speaking of politicians, another reason I think I missed the election is the inexorable campaigning, and the next election is still over 3 years away. Apparently our elections now run non-stop, like Olive Garden’s “endless bowl of pasta”. On the Republican side, the media are interviewing the likes of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and others. I guess they have lost interest in Chris Christie since he ticked off the Tea Party folks who will likely pick the candidate. On the Dem side, there are continuing murmurs about Hillary and Biden. Already? It is three years away folks!

Which brings us to the real problem of elections in America. The length of our campaigns is outrageously long. No other developed country has anything near our multi-year campaigning with extended primaries, caucuses, debates, and general maneuvering.  In January of 2010, the London Guardian published this quote about the length of the English election process: “Over the years, Margaret Thatcher was wrong about a lot of things. One thing she got right, however, was the length of British general election campaigns. ‘Three weeks is long enough,’ she pronounced in 1997”.  Though the British have Parliamentary elections, her surmise is quite apt.

Similarly, in Canada, the length of election campaigns can vary, but under the Elections Act, the normal length of a campaign is 36 days. The longest campaign ever (1926) was only 74 days.  Again, in Australia, upon dissolution of Parliament, writs are issued for nominations within 10 days; and the total length of the election process is generally about 68 days start to finish.

Add to this the obscene amounts of money we raise – and spend – on our national campaigns, and you have to conclude that our electoral process is flawed, draining, needlessly exhausting, and seemingly out of control. We are now swimming in an obscenity of money and campaign financing. It does not make for better campaigns – it makes them worse. We are now in an era of media sound bites and 30 second attack ads – not genuine positive ideas to make our country run better. The SCOTUS Citizens United decision may go down as the worst (and most damaging) reading of law in modern history; it has changed our electoral landscape for the worse…possibly forever. Where were those petitions when we really needed them?

Given all that, I am not sure I actually did sleep through the last election in 2012; but I can tell you this now: I sure hope to sleep through the next one!