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Fixing American Democracy: Shorten the Election Season

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Fixing American Democracy: Shorten the Election Season

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Part 4 of a six-part series. See Part 1: The Right to Vote For Everyone, Part 2: Increase the House, and Part 3: Paper Trail Vote by Mail.

We’ve discussed the need for amendments to define our right to vote for any and all of the candidates in an election. We’ve introduced the very first amendment the Founders considered to our Constitution – Article the First – which defines proportional representation in the Congress that would drastically reshape the Electoral College. And in our last installment, we’ve extolled the virtues of a vote-by-mail system used by a few states like mine (Oregon), like protecting our democracy from hacking.

Today, Donald Trump’s already stealing Jeb Bush’s exclamation point for his 2020 re-election campaign slogan, “Keep America Great!” This constant running-for-election has our elected officials spending more time raising money from billionaires than heeding the will of their constituents.

It’s time to put an end to that – but not by stifling the money speech of those who wish to participate in bribery democracy. Instead, just compress the whole thing down from a couple of years to a couple of months.

Step Four: Shorten the Election Season

In 2016, Major League Baseball completed 2,465 games among 30 teams with 750 players to select a champion. That took two months less than the United States completing 50 primaries between two teams with 20 players to select a president.

Homework: Sign Sheryl Crow’s petition to DNC and RNC to shorten the primary season.

How it could happen: A simple decision by those two private party organizations to abide by the petition.

Why it will not happen: Longer campaign seasons mean more spending on TV campaign ads, salaries for political hacks, and attention for small states.

No other nation has such a protracted election season for president. We are getting to the point where after the midterm election, there is already a two-year POTUS campaign going on.

(IMAGE: BOB ENGLEHART – HARTFORD COURANT) And enough with the Christmas music before Thanksgiving, too!

Over that drawn-out season, there becomes a greater feeling of tribalism. Big money donors can bombard voters with months’ worth of misleading ads. People start to tune out the politics after so much.

Instead, let’s start our presidential election in September. Set up the states to have regional “Super Tuesdays” (but again, see Step Three – we’ll do it by mail) that follow a Monday Debate hosted in that region every week. This would force the candidates to campaign in each region’s states more.

Also, rotate those primaries every election, so each region has its shot at being the first to vote or last to vote. No more kowtowing to Iowa and New Hampshire in February.

Instead of our election season feeling like an extended marathon from before the February Iowa primaries on, it would feel more like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where we focus our attention on a series of weekly contests leading to a winner.

It would have to be a constitutional amendment that spells out that no funds raised for the purpose of campaigning for federal office shall be spent prior to the Tuesday following Labor Day prior to Election Day.

This still leaves candidates free to declare as early as they like> It wouldn’t run afoul of Citizens United, as candidates could still take all the money they like from PACs and people. But by squeezing all that spending into a nine-week window, the effect of big money is diluted a bit. You can only hold so many rallies in nine weeks. There are only so many ad spots to purchase on TV and radio and the internet.

I don’t think the amendment can commandeer the states into setting some sort of primary schedule, or the press and parties into following up with the debate schedule. But I don’t think it would be necessary. Compressing the election season to nine weeks would force the states to work out regional arrangements, much like college football’s conferences have shifted and evolved due to financial pressures.

Think about it. After 2015-through-16’s drawn-out series of Republican debates and Bernie Bros vs. Hill Bots, wouldn’t you love to not see or hear a single thing about the next presidential election until September 2020?

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