After months of campaigning and a record amount of money spent, the United States finally has its next president. President Obama won a second term in an election night that passed much more smoothly than some of the leading analysts were predicting. Depending on one’s stance, this is either very good or very bad; however, both sides can agree that this election has gone on long enough. Like the exam that takes weeks to get passed back, the American people have been dragged through a tumultuous time where they have not been quite sure of what happens next.
The United States has one of the longest election cycles in the world; campaigning for the Republican primaries started back in March of 2011, when Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy . Since then, the U.S. has suffered 615 days of promises, debates, campaign ads, primaries, and speeches. Compared to the one-month campaign cycle in the United Kingdom, this seems over-the-top. Elections here also cost way more than elections across the pond. During the 2008 presidential election, the candidates spent an estimated $1.7 billion, whereas the political parties in Great Britain were capped at spending 20 million pounds each (roughly $33 million U.S. dollars) . This election alone, the U.S. candidates spent a combined $5.8 billion . The gap in spending can be partly attributed to a ban on paid TV and radio advertising regarding political matters in the U.K. There, citizens are not bombarded like American citizens are with ads endorsing or condemning different candidates.
A longer election cycle does not help the citizens of a certain country. In today’s world, it takes three minutes to go online and Google a candidate’s position and compare it to others. Likewise, candidates do not need over 600 days to get their point across to voters. A few speeches and interviews will give voters all the information they need; the extra time just adds room for mistakes. In a long election cycle, there is room for candidates to make gaffes and contradict themselves. Voters saw it in this election with “flip-flop Romney”  and many other gaffes made during the Republican primaries. Sure, these mistakes might still happen in a shorter election, but in a briefer election there would also a less amount of time available to mess up.
The United States itself is also negatively impacted by a long election cycle. Lawmakers in Washington are diverted from their duties to jobs associated with being a candidate. In congress, each representative serves a two-year term. In an election cycle that takes place over the course of the majority of these two years, the representatives must focus on what will get them re-elected, rather than what needs to get done in Washington. In March of 2012, President Obama even admitted this in a private conversation with President Medvedev of Russia. Obama told Medvedev that he would have more flexibility to deal with issues like missile defense after the election . If we want our representatives to truly work for what they believe, the American election system must make it easier for them to spend a shorter amount of time (and money) campaigning.
After 615 days of campaign media coverage, and one very upset four year-old, there is now an empty hole to fill in the lives of Americans. Some will turn back to work; others claim they will “move to Canada.” Still, if 2016 is anything like 2012 was, there are only 844 days until the election begins, and, as we learned, a lot can happen until then.
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