Over time Presidential elections have evolved. For years it was customary for candidates for the nomination of their respective political party to not personally campaign. The numerous newspapers of the day carried their speeches and letters illuminating their political views.
Times have changed! The 20th Century witnessed the advent of radio. Radio had the famous Roosevelt fireside chats, they had the mayor of New York reading the comics to his constituents during the Depression. Radio had a dynamic effect on how we perceived our candidates. You could hear their voice on radio and sometimes you might not like the sound of the voice that you heard.
During the 1950’s television began to be a key means of communication. Candidates, their surrogates and television ads began to use this new form of communications to transform the political landscape. The Nixon-Kennedy television debates changed politics forever. Politics became more of a visual spectacle. Politics became less about content and substance that you read about in the 19th Century and it became more about charisma and the selling of the candidate. Who was going to be your soap of choice?
In the early part of the 21st Century, campaigns changed once, again. It used to be, that the campaign for the nomination for president began with the month leading up to the New Hampshire Primary and the Iowa caucus, the year of the election. Now for unknown reasons, we have the forever campaign. I don’t know if it comes from the pressure created by the media or from the respective political party’s, but nevertheless, the talking heads from the beginning of 2015 were talking about candidate announcements. When was Hillary going to announce. The Republican hopefuls were already courting voters. The barbs targeted her way, probably forced her campaign to announce before she wanted to and to organize even earlier for the campaign to begin in earnest long before the wintry days in New Hampshire.
I am sure that the campaign consultants and the Sunday morning talk shows are happy with the earlier start but is it good for our democracy and for our government. In starting earlier we help to make the current occupant a lame duck earlier than in the past. If you change the focus of politics to the next campaign 2 years hence, you have made the new sitting Congress change what they might do or say because of the potential political fallout. The forever campaign for President virtually insures that nothing will get done, that none of the serious concerns of the people get addressed.
We need election reform not a forever campaign. A series of regional elections to choose a party’s candidate, might be advisable. A shorter election cycle like what the British have would be preferable. Less money would be spent and if you have a few serious debates with no 30 second political ads you just might get a better handle on your choices for President.
The airwaves and cable TV are filled with more and more ideological nonsense to fill the 24 hour news cycle. We are the losers in the forever campaign. It is more about glitz and show business and less about substance. I can just see it now, if we were to transform the past and put the founders under the glare of today’s media. Can you imagine what today’s media would do with the information about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave? What would the media do and say about George Washington’s teeth or that cherry tree? While our elders dealt with how to make democracy work we talk about potential invasions of Texas. While Lincoln dealt with the Institution of Slavery we have elected members of Congress who try to justify discrimination, and deny science or tell their elected officials that they can not mention the words climate change.
I love politics but I don’t think the forever campaign does anyone any good other than those who profit off of a campaign that begins once the last one ends. I feel sorry for the poor citizens of New Hampshire who will now have to listen to and have their lives disturbed for not 2 or 3 months but for nearly a year. Democracy suffers and we the people continue to lose faith in our system. Campaign fatigue sets in and we increasingly are turned off of politics.