So as a non US person, I understand somewhat the reasons why you have such a long drawn out primary process. But why on earth do you have five months between the conventions and the general election? From what I understand swing states are already blanketed in campaign ads and robocalls and it only gets worse as we get towards November.
Surely everyone in a swing state gets sick of it after one month, never mind five. The longest election cycle in Australia was less than two months and everyone thought that was too long. Why not move the conventions to six weeks before the general and move the primaries up by a corresponding amount?
And before you say “The US is so big, we need time for the candidates to get around to every state”, well India with 714 million people manages to have much shorter election cycles than the US. What possible logic is behind this?
The conventions are held in July and August. After the conventions, in theory, everybody takes a bit of a break before the campaign proper starts in early September. Then there’s two months of campaigning before voting in early November. Two months is not an excessive time for campaigning, particularly in such a large country, and particularly when we think how campaigns were conducted before television and before radio.
The whole thing is impossibly drawn out now because of the primary cycle, but that’s a comparatively recent development.
So why bother moving the conventions? They haven’t happened yet and yet the campaign has already started. If for some reason the parties and government* agree to move the conventions to mid-September, the campaign will happen as it would without the move.
*The conventions are private functions, but six weeks is so close that it would cut into deadlines for overseas absentee ballots.
Not with modern plane travel it doesn’t. All major candidates use private planes, they can cover as much ground as they need. And nowadays do personal appearances even count for much when everything is instantly available on TV and social media?
I guess I’m just amazed you put up with it, is there no actual popular support to reform and shorten the entire process?
Lord Feldon, I meant in future elections, obviously not in this election cycle, it’s too late for that.
Yes, but so what? As you pointed out, there are campaign ads before the convention. What makes you think that moving the convention would change the length of the “election cycle”?
I’ve seen at least one ad relating to Ohio’s 2018 gubernatorial election BTW. There aren’t even declared candidates, and it’s worth someone’s while to spend money trashing one of the potential candidates.
Also, you shouldn’t assume that what the media is talking about is actually a reflection of our lives. The campaign is not actually oppressive because most people are not paying attention to it. The traditional assumption is that most people only really get engaged after Labor Day. There’s a little more engagement this year because of one…unconventional candidate, but normally it’s not something that bothers us because we’re good at ignoring things we don’t care about.
In the UK, the election campaign proper only takes six weeks and we are all heartily sick of it by the actual date. Of course, the parties try to get free publicity for their cause before the campaign starts but that’s fairly peripheral.
There are very strict limits on how much they can spend too.
OK, the answer is basically tradition. It made sense in the 19th century, because delegates had to travel from all over the country to get to the convention, and then travel all the way back. And then once they got back, they’d have to do the campaigning. That’s right, the delegates (and other supporters) did most of the election campaigning. For about the first 100 years, the candidates didn’t campaign at all. And once they started to, they still couldn’t cover the entire country (swing states are a relatively new phenomenon), so they still needed delegates to campaign for them.
OK, could they shorten things up now? Sure, but there’s no incentive to do so, so they haven’t. And many Americans are also heartily sick of the whole thing long before election day. But they’re not the ones who make the decision on when to have conventions and primaries.
As far as India goes, their short election campaigns are also due to tradition, but it’s a tradition borrowed from England.
By some accounts, the maneuvering for the 2020 election has already begun. This is why Cruz and Ryan are playing coy about endorsing Trump. And are unwilling to join him as VP because they don’t want to accompany him going down in flames (if he does).
Partly, it is historical. Most countries elect only members of a parliament or similar assembly, but the president is elected nationally. Partly it is the result of fixed election dates. Yes, Trudeau will probably have to call an election in 2019, but he could wait till 2020 or jump the gun in 2018. So there is no fixed date to aim at and the parties will have only 6 weeks to run the election campaign.
It is only relatively recently that the candidates were known before the actual convention. Eisenhower and Taft really did contend at the convention. So did Stevenson and whoever opposed him. In 1964, Goldwater’s nomination was not a sure thing and Hubert Ho(ratio) Hum(phrey) was far from certain of being nominated in 1968.
I remember people saying the Democratic Convention was held late in 1964 (August 24-27) which worked out well for them since the Republican party spent a lot of them infighting between Goldwater and Rockefeller supporters. But in 1968 holding it in late August backfired because it was the Democrats who had infighting between Humphrey-Johnson followers and the McCarthy-Kennedy followers. It took Humphrey a while to get on his feet, find a message and make a close race of it.
So I suppose that neither party wants to put themselves at a possible disadvantage. Even nowadays you never quite know. A year ago lots of people thought Jeb Bush would be the GOP nominee, that Trump would flame out quickly and that Hillary Clinton would have a cake walk to the Democratic nomination.
A LOT of things have changed since the first elections in the U.S.
Remember once upon a time it took 6 months to get from one side of the country to the other (horseback). There were no phones, etc. And no computers/networks which could quickly count 250 million votes nationwide.
And that was the original purpose of leaders in armies / supervisors, etc. To count the men and/or communicate orders via “trickle down” from the top. Easier to tell 100 sergeants who would then go and tell their 100 soldiers each what the orders are.
These days with electronic communication and airplane travel, no longer a problem. But things are still the way they used to be.
The campaign in a parliamentary system is not even remotely comparable to the campaign in a presidential system. In a parliamentary system, the candidates are almost always the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; these individuals are known years in advance and they campaign against each other in Parliament long before the official start of the election campaign.
In a presidential system, no one knows the identity of the candidates until the parties make their nominations, and they begin campaigning from scratch. Note how the timeline in France (presidential) is quite similar to the United States–the major parties will make their nominations in November 2016 and January 2017, three months and five months respectively before the general election.
I don’t think there is a great demand by voters to shorten campaigns. They may not like it but I bet if Gallup or somebody surveyed them as to “most important issues”, it would rank real low, on par with what should the national insect be. It becomes part of the background noise.
I don’t think parties have any interest in shortening it if the other one won’t. They’d be afraid the opposition would monopolize attention for months on end.
Politicians won’t shorten it. Congress ranks low in public opinion polls but the odd thing is that incumbents usually win. Once you get in, you have the ability to raise money easier, to do favors for constituents, to use publicly funded mailings to promote yourself. A longer campaign means that your opponents have to raise more money and are put at a disadvantage.
If you did shorten the season, are you going to stop various politicians, whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Ted Cruz from stopping campaigning for 2020? Public funding of campaigns to limit money? The voters have shown reluctance to have “welfare for politicians”. And courts could strike down campaign financing limits as infringement of freedom of speech.
In a parliamentary system the candidates are local; unless I happen to live in the constituency represented by the current prime minister or the current leader of the opposition, I don’t get to vote for either of them; I get to vote for local candidates representing the various parties, and they’ll spend the whole campaign in the constituency, campaigning.
The party leaders do, of course, tour, and in their touring they’ll spend a good deal of time in constituencies seen to be marginal, and little or no time in constituencies regarded as safe for one side or the other. But even when they do come, they are not perceived to be campaigning to attract personal support, so much as to lend their support to the local party and its candidate. So, while visits by party leaders do attract attention, they’re don’t have the central place in the campaign that visits by presidential candidates have in a presidential system.
It’s important to remember that the parties set the schedule. The primary system was created by them. The scheduling rules for the state primaries/caucuses was set by them. The convention dates are set by them. \
The parties think there’s a benefit to the current scheduling. They set it not the government.
We do not have primaries and such in Canada.
But I follow the U.S. election cycle quite closely, being a small thing, next to that large thing.
The primaries cost money and in some instances votes, that have to be replaced and realigned if possible. The primaries bring out conflicts that can separate potential donors and voters from the winner of the primaries, that will be needed for the actual election. A time between can allow the party’s candidate to rebuild the donor and voter base. A period to consolidate the winning candidate as much as possible, with the party base. Hopefully the winner takes into account how close the race was, and does some fine tuning of their platform.