Our neighbors to the north just wrapped up a major general election Monday, which featured the longest campaign cycle in Canadian history.
How long, you ask? 78 days. Yes, a two-month election cycle is considered a marathon in Canada. Probably because the United Kingdom, which operates under a similar parliamentary system of government, got its May election over with in little over a month. In France, the official campaign period is less than two weeks. That’s only twice as long as the one for our undergraduate student government, which – let’s be fair – is far, far less important.
The relative efficiency in which every Western democracy that is not the United States carries out their election campaigns puts our system, and our country, to shame. So what’s the reasoning behind our seemingly endless presidential election campaigns and drawn-out, overpriced congressional elections?
Actually, the problem lies in the fact that there is no system to speak of. Simply put, there is no regulation of campaign cycle length in the U.S., making it feel less like a cycle and more of a never-ending deluge. Yes, there is a Federal Election Commission – the infamous defendant of the Citizens United court case that opened the floodgates for unlimited campaign contributions by groups – but it concerns itself with how elections are financed in this country, not how long campaigns can last.
This has proven to be a critical omission in election law that has thoroughly permeated American culture, as elections from inconsequential elementary school student bodies to the presidency all feel like they last far, far too long. The New York Times began its coverage of the 2016 election in February … of 2012, long before the last election was decided. The Times, however, does possess a degree of self-awareness: An analysis of campaign announcements on The Upshot blog shows that Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 candidacy 576 days before Election Day.
How can we allow ourselves to live in a country where the election for a university’s student government is over half the length of campaigning for the French general election? Then again, the oft-discussed death of journalism would accelerate if elections lasted two weeks instead of two years, so I shouldn’t be talking.