In less than three weeks, the presidential election will be over.
It has been a too-long, too-arduous and too-expensive campaign season. Americans should think about instituting shorter and cheaper campaigns.
By the time Nov. 7 rolls around, Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore will have been campaigning for almost two years, although not as “official” candidates.
Gore formed his campaign organization Jan. 1, 1999. Bush formed an exploratory committee Feb. 26 of the same year.
At the time, neither Gore nor Bush were officially candidates, but by forming “committees,” they placed themselves in the public’s eye and in the polls.
So Americans have been hearing from the candidates for two years — half the term of the office of the president. Half of Gore’s vice-presidential term. Half of Bush’s term as governor of Texas.
But two years, though long, is apparently what it takes to win the presidency.
When Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, formed his presidential candidate exploratory committee July 2, 1999, he was pounded by media reports saying he entered the race too late to win.
“Too late” was about five months before the first deadline to get in a state primary — Rhode Island on Nov. 30. The state primaries do not start until months later.
In contrast, Canada’s national elections are quick.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a call Monday for new elections in the country. Election day is Nov. 27 — only 36 days later.
Elections in Canada are also much cheaper. According to the New York Times, Chretien’s Liberal Party and the opposition Canadian Alliance will probably spend less than $10 million each before the election there on Nov. 27.
Bush and Gore reached that number a long time ago. The latest reports available from the Federal Election Committee, published July 31, put Gore’s treasure chest at about $50 million and Bush’s at $95 million.
Such sums are the direct result of the long election process in the United States. Shortening the election period could help lower astronomical costs.
Candidates would find it hard to spend $100 million in only 36 days of campaigning.
A shortened election period could also alleviate apparent voter apathy of the campaigns.
Two years is a long time. If the election is not imminent, it is hard for voters to pay attention. And by the last few weeks before November, the country suffers from campaign overload.
The problem is that elections are too long and, therefore, too expensive. The solution, however, is not simple.
Government regulation of the length of the election period would be complex. Laws would have to define which activities count as campaigning, and restrictions would be hard to enforce.
Maybe the best solution is to set a date before which no state can hold a primary election. By setting the date to coincide with the actual election year, campaign periods could become shorter.
Another solution would be to ask the major parties to agree voluntarily not to campaign prematurely.
One thing is for sure. The current system needs to change, or it will bore America to death.