A Modest Proposal

Campaign season is too darn long.

It’s too long for a number of reasons, including this modest list:

  • “Voter Fatigue” — Joe and Jane Average get so tired of hearing about politics that they lose interest in voting altogether. Particularly since it looks like candidates will be finalized something like 9 months before the elections. That’s an entire human gestation period.
  • Circular Firing Squad — Candidates have such a grand time ripping on one another during primary season that they hand the opposing party ammunition for the general election.
  • Too expensive — The long campaign season means it costs a lot more money to mount a credible campaign. It’s not possible to really run without being on the hook to special interest groups. That is to say nothing of the insanity of spending millions of dollars to try and get a job that earns $400,000 that you only get to keep 4 years. Sure, there are perks like free housing, security, and riding a private 747 around the world, but you see the point.
  • Day jobs — The people trying to become President are almost all current elected officials. They should be doing the job their constituents elected them to do instead of going off on a year long job interview. Seriously, there have been some important votes in the Senate lately.

This year, the Democratic Convention is in late August; the Republican Convention is in early September. That’s fine! It allows a good solid 2 months of plain old campaign afterwards. What really needs to be shortened is primary season. The various states have tried to get their primaries and caucuses earlier and earlier so that they are still relevant. Various states use the process to flex political muscle in a race that would otherwise bypass them. It has gotten to the point that the Democratic Party has told Michigan and Florida that their primary is too darn early and doesn’t count! By the time Super Tuesday has come and gone, the fat lady is singing.

So yes, the Presidential campaign season isn’t just too long, it’s way too long. It was probably too long back before candidates could travel by airplane and have their comments on the TV within minutes, and it’s even worse in the “internet age”. I have an idea to fix that. It will never happen, because the Powers That Be seem to like things the way they are.

So here’s my idea.

Let’s keep the conventions and the general election cycle exactly where it is, but reduce primary season to 12 weeks. This is a full month longer than the period of time between the conventions and Election Day. Furthermore, let’s break this down into six sections, each 2 weeks long.

Let Iowa and New Hampshire continue the traditional kickoff to the season in weeks one and two.

By my count, there are 8 states (including the District of Columbia) that each have 3 electoral votes. They can all do their primaries in week 3. By now, one out of 5 states have done their thing, and several weaker candidates should be seriously considering dropping out of the race.

Another 9 states (excluding New Hampshire) have 4 or 5 electoral votes each. They all go in week 5.

An additional 10 states (excluding Iowa) have between 6 and 9 electoral votes (inclusive) each. They get week 7. In an ideal world, we are down to a half dozen candidates on each side.

The 13 states with 10-15 electoral votes all have their primaries in week 9.

So by week 10, 41 states and the District of Columbia have had primaries, caucuses, straw polls, or whatever else they do. In weeks 10 and 11 the remaining nine states — our nine most populous states — finish out the roster. Ideally, we have three or maybe even 4 candidates for each party still in play, even if some are regarded as longshots. Since at the moment these nine states control 226 electoral votes, they are still very much relevant to the outcome. They can still make or break a candidate’s chances.

Needless to say, after the 2010 Census, the Electoral Votes will be shuffled, and this order will have to be slightly adapted. I consider this a minor tweak. Even we we take a few weeks off before the conventions, we can still start the process in May!

Can anyone tell me why this would be bad for the voting public? Anyone?

One thought on “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Your proposal sounds fine with me, Bridget. I HATED having an early primary in Michigan. Not only were there too many candidates, I felt as though none of the candidates had shaped themselves into final form yet. I am completely fatigued by the primaries, and we’re just in the first month of the Presidential election year!

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