By CYN LoPINTO
Why does the official campaign season to elect a US President have to start so early? We have more than a year until we walk into a voting booth, but yet our TV and computer screens have been full of sound bites and speeches for months from a whole array of candidates vying for air time and our attention. At this early date, it is way too soon to tell who from the never-ending cast will get the lead roles and who will go down as mere supporting characters. It is safe to say, however, that the midterm elections have become the starting shot which begins the drawn-out race that will eventually decide who becomes our next president. Couple this with the 24 hour-news world we live in today, and it isn’t surprising that we’re already fed up with the 2016 election
It wasn’t until the 1970s that campaigns ran for longer times. Years earlier, Democrat John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy just nine months before he won in 1960 and Republican Dwight Eisenhower declared only five months before his victory in 1952. Rules were changed during the 1970s giving more weight to states’ primary elections and less significance to deals made at national conventions. Candidates needed to get their views and positions out to the actual voters so campaigning took on more importance. Democrat Jimmy Carter was the first to start a long campaign when he announced in December 1974, nearly two years before the November 1976 election. Republican candidate Gerald Ford followed suit and announced just seven months later in June 1975. It was a brand new era of politics.
In the 1980s and 1990s, yearlong campaigns seemed to be the norm. Republican Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy twelve months before he won in 1980 and fellow Republican H.W. Bush went public thirteen months before his victory in 1988. In October 1991, Democrat Bill Clinton campaigned the same amount of time by declaring thirteen months prior to becoming president in November 1992.
With the beginning of the 21st century, campaign times have greatly increased. Republican George Bush made his announcement in June 1999 for the November election giving voters seventeen months of exposure. Democrat Barrack Obama surprised many by announcing his candidacy February 2007 at a rally in Illinois, a whopping twenty-one months before he was elected in November 2008. This was the longest campaign since Jimmy Carter and the first that significantly benefited from sharing information via the internet and social media. Online coverage and social media opportunities are even more critical in today’s elections and the current political arena. So many voters use this medium to learn about candidates and what they stand for.
Today’s candidates have even more time to get their ideas out to the public. Before they even “decide” if they are officially running, they are able to get media coverage just toying with the possibility. Panels of pundits speculate if and when a possible candidate will make their big announcement. Months of free media coverage can precede a candidate’s official announcement or give attention to a person who decides not to run after all. It can often seem like a reality show more than a news event.
So what is the average voter to do to guard themselves against early burnout through such a long season of politics? The most important thing is to limit the amount of time you watch or read about the upcoming elections. While it is great to stay informed and on top of current issues, it isn’t necessary to be a sucked into the “entertainment” aspect of these stories. Try to seek out the unbiased and more journalistic outlets that cover the actual platforms and policies the candidates stand for, instead of the pageantry and sound bites of the day. Over-exposure will not help you make a decision. If you step back and think about how much time is left until the actual election next year, you realize that there is plenty of time to find out everything that you will need to know. When you walk into that voting booth next November, you will have the information required to make a rational and informed decision.