Once upon a time, America’s presidential elections came every four years, with campaign seasons that lasted the few months before the fated November date.
Now, they’re endless. As soon as Election Day cometh, the next White House race dawneth.
The overarching effect is a population kept in a constant state of political anxiety. Not only is that bad for ulcers. It’s a distraction from more important things — and yes, there are plenty of more important things than politics.
Governing, for instance.
“Constant campaigning leaves no time for governing,” a columnist wrote in The Star in 2017.
“Just this week,” the May, 2017, The Star piece continued, “former vice-president Joe Biden visited New Hampshire, a crucial battleground state in presidential elections. Cue thousands of speculative articles and electronic media reports prognosticating on the 2020 Democratic contenders and on Trump’s electoral chances. … This should not come as a surprise. It has been observed for quite some time that we are living in an age of the perpetual election campaign.”
The media benefit.
Corporate media derive great benefits from the nonstop election cycle because it gives the 24-7 talking heads something to talk about, something to prognosticate about, something to warn about — and that talk, that prognostication, that warning fuels further talk, prognostication, warning. Pundits are brought on to talk about the previous pundits’ forecasts.
There’s advertising space to sell.
Lots and lots of advertising space, with money going to the most-hyped — i.e., most watched — channel. Then come the pollsters, the ever-polling pollsters, driving the punditry further. Heck, today’s media don’t even pay for outside polling half the time; the news provides its own polling, and then reports on its own polls, giving special attention, of course, to the poll findings that generate the most attention.
“Why Are U.S. Elections So Much Longer Than Other Countries?” NPR asked, back in October of 2015.
That’s easy. Because there’s so much money to be made from perpetual campaign seasons.
Shockingly, the NPR piece reported this: “If Vice President Biden had announced his presidential candidacy today, he would have entered the race with 384 days until Election Day. But he said it was too late for him to be competitive. … Meanwhile, Canada just wrapped up its latest campaign season. That one was longer than usual — about 11 weeks.”
The 2020 White House race hasn’t even been decided yet and already, whispers have started on social media about the Republican Party’s next presidential candidate, the Democrat Party’s 2024 pick.
“Presidential candidates, 2024,” Ballotpedia said.
“Top 5 Democratic Presidential Candidates for 2024,” National Interest wrote.
“Who’s Running for President in 2024?” Medium wondered.
“Who’s Winning 2024?” Politico similarly questioned.
Enough. The American people have enough to worry about this week, within their own homes, about their own families and loved ones, to deal with 2024 presidential candidates and beyond. The news needs to reel in the unworthy non-news. The pollsters need to show some restraint. And the political class — well, the political class needs to focus on the here and now of good governing, and let the future campaigns unfold naturally, in due time.
Give the ulcers a break.
Give the American people the focused leaders they deserve.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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