Two weeks after New Year's Eve, I'm still hungover.
It's not what you think.
My head is pounding from the candidates' flip flops.
My stomach is churning from the roller coaster ride of the polls.
I've drowned in elections, thrown back one too many debates, consumed one (hundred) too many campaign emails and heard one too many false predictions.
And I'm not alone.
Don Stehrs is the Republican co-chair of Crawford County, Iowa. He has been involved in politics since 1960's. I asked him what was different about this campaign. His answer: "Usually you find the debates in August and September . You'd think the elections are going to be tomorrow with the way the candidates are spending and advertising."
Well, Don, brilliant observation.
Election season officially was kicked off with the first debate of the primary season on April 26, 2007 when the Democrats 'debated' in South Carolina. That's more than a full year and a half before the general election, more than 8 months before the Iowa Caucus and almost 9 until the upcoming South Carolina primaries. As of today (Jan 16) 19 Democratic and 18 Republican 'debates' have been held.
According to a New York Times article the Dems have spent a record $23.7 million on advertising in Iowa this year. For perspective, they spent $9.1 million in 2004.
I'm just recovering from 2007 and the election season already has crowned a new king, said not so fast, produced several comeback kids, and sidelined real news (think war & peace.) That's with a whopping 3 ½ states. (Yes, you might have missed it when you sneezed, but Wyoming held a GOP caucus between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary. For those of you with a scorecard, Mitt Romney won 8 of the 14 delegates.)
It's not that I don't believe in real debates and a campaign's right to advertise. I do. But election season has become ridiculous and ridiculously long. If the election was a soundtrack being played at over and over again at the rate of campaign rhetoric, it'd last about a month in rotation and then never be heard from again.
Consider the following:
That was then...
* The first primary of the election season (yes New Hampshire) used to be in March.
* In 1964 California's primary was in June.
* Primaries didn't exist a hundred years ago. (See here and here for a quick history on U.S. primary elections.)
This is now...
*New Hampshire's 2008 primary was held on January 8th.
*California's 2008 primary is on February 5th.
*By Valentine's Day 2008, 31 states will have completed their caucus or primary election and 70% of the Democratic delegates and 61% of the Republican delegates will be committed. And by mid-March, 85% of delegates from both parties will be committed.
Primaries starting about 5 months before the national conventions and spread out over a 3 to 4 month period sound reasonable. But the jockeying by states to influence the presidential nomination has resulted in 31 primaries/caucuses taking place within a 5 week period (give or take a few days) that ends before the middle of February. The result: too many horse races, too much silly campaigning, and too much time and space to be filled by the likes of myself (much of it nonsense.)
This is why I support National Primary Day.
Sometime in April, May even.
With a ban on campaigning until after the New Year starts.
Candidates would have plenty of time to campaign without ruining my holiday, your holiday or theirs. They wouldn't have to raise as much money because they wouldn't be campaigning for as long a period of time and we wouldn't be subjected to campaign donation requests at the same time we're shopping for gifts. We'd be spared articles telling us how tired the candidates are and hokey campaign ads like Rudy Giuliani's fruit cake ad in which he begins the ad with an acknowledgment that the primaries are interfering with his holiday shopping. (I only bring it up again because it's hilarious... and we can all use to lighten up after a week of throwing around the race card.)
The critics out there will say a National Primary Day will come at a detriment to the small states as they will be ignored by the candidates and their voices may not count. But why should states with populations of less than 1 percent (Iowa is about 1% and New Hampshire's population is less than ½%) of the U.S. population, have the importance in the election that they do? Or what about the states that are holding this year's primaries in June (Montana, South Dakota and New Mexico), will candidates even bother campaigning in those states?
The primary season doesn't have to be the way it is. It's not required by the U.S. Constitution, but was created by the people for the people and like many things political the season has turned into a circus. National Primary Day may be too extreme, but there are other reform plans out there worth considering that are a variation on the theme, i.e. coordinated primaries held over two, four, six days (whatever) ... and they wouldn't be in January.