By Marge Wang
For the Northwest Asian Weekly
We, the citizens of the United States, are fortunate to live in a democracy where we can elect our government leaders. Every four years, we have a major election. However, the election process is getting more troublesome and annoying. Personally, I attribute this to the length of our political campaigns. The primary stage seems to start earlier all the time, and, if you count the exploratory and fundraising stages, it’s a good two years of being bombarded with political ads on TV, phones, newspapers, and the Internet.
No other democracy spends so much time running political campaigns. For example, the maximum amount of time for Canada’s elections is 74 days; for Australia, 2 months; and Germany, 114 days.
A recent cover story of Time magazine was titled, “For Sale — The White House — Asking: $2.5 billion”
So, where is this huge amount of money coming from? Primarily from groups like Super PAC and 501(c)4 organizations. In addition, Citizens United was legalized when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could be defined as individuals, thus clearing the way to unlimited giving. In contrast, other democracies all place firm limits on candidates’ ceilings: $6,200 in New Zealand, $15,000 in Great Britain, $22,000 in Canada, and $75,000 in France.
One can clearly see how much influence big donors can wield! Candidates will have to pander to their demands and their special interests. No wonder the “small donor” — one who gives $200 or less — feels that their donation carries so little influence.
Now, if our political campaigns could be shortened to a more reasonable amount of time, then we could lessen the influence of the big moneyed interest groups. Besides, with the money saved, think of all the worthwhile projects that can be accomplished, such as repairing our cities’ infrastructures, improving schools, research and development of new medicines, endowing the arts, etc.
Another important benefit of shorter campaigns is the incumbents could spend more time actually working in their position, be it as a senator, district attorney, or sheriff. The opposing candidates would also not have to worry about suspending their careers. Few people relish the fundraising and exhausting long campaign portions of our election process.
In addition, a shorter campaign period would force voters to pay attention to what the candidates have to say or what they stand for. Thanks to today’s technology of “instant” information, most people make up their minds quicker about whom they are going to vote for. Listening to candidates at repetitive media appearances or hearing political pundits analyze every phrase and action are sure turn-offs.
Perhaps it is time for those of us who are concerned about this area of campaign reform to contact our lawmakers.
Changing the length of the election process would take persistence, dedication, and patience. I believe it can be done, for that is the hopeful nature of our American Democracy! (end)