Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tired of McCain and Obama?

Are you tired of the presidential campaign? Should you be tired?

To the casual observer, American presidential campaigns are excessively long. In some countries, national campaigns last no more than 30 days. But in America, they begin not with the 60 to 90 day, head-to-head race between the major party candidates after the national conventions, which campaigns for delegates in conventions, primaries and caucuses precede by many months, but they also include several years of serious exploratory efforts by prospective candidates to raise funds and to create campaign organizations.

Advances in technology and transportation along with front-loading of caucuses and primaries have combined to lengthen presidential campaigns. In anticipation of 2008, prospective candidates began to establish exploratory committees and to travel to key states in 2005.

Critics contend that elongated American presidential campaigns waste substantial sums of money on advertising, travel, media coverage and campaign staff. But these same lengthy campaigns also insure that the candidates face five vital tests.
  1. Test whether candidates have sufficient mental, emotional and physical capabilities and energies to survive the extraordinary rigors of four years in office.
  2. Test the ability of candidates to unify their parties after divisive primaries and caucuses.
  3. Test the public’s acceptance of the candidates’ issues and ideas.
  4. Test the administrative skill of candidates to organize personnel and to develop coherent policies.
  5. Test the ability of the front-runner to maintain his lead against the challenger.
So, these five tests make the presidential campaign the best test we have to determine if Senator McCain and Senator Obama have what it takes to lead the world’s oldest, largest, most prestigious, and most powerful democracy.

In short, a presidential campaign serves as a simulation of the presidency itself.

1 comment:

Gerry said...

I had never really considered the modern election cycle as a means to "test" the candidates in this way. Very insightful and interesting. I must admit the truth of your observations. I'm still left wondering if this is the best way to accomplish the task.

Even if it is the best way, I also wonder if we, as the world's leading Christian nation, shouldn't somehow try to be better financial stewards. I realize there are enormous 1st Amendment hurdles in the area of campaign finance, and that the most serious previous efforts to reign it in have largely been unsuccessful. Still, I worry that we make a bad witness to the rest of the world by expending so much money in the process.

There seems to be a significant number of people, both here and around the world, who have formed the impression that the Presidency can be "bought." Many people simply don't understand why someone would be willing to spend tens of millions of dollars of their own money to get elected. I think the consensus among those people is that the candidates must expect some kind of quid pro quo; and, they worry about what the "quo" might be.

I think Senator Obama has capitalized on this negative impression in his reversal of opinion on receiving public financing. Even though only a fool would think he doesn't also have "big money" donors (many of whom probably do expect something in return), he has been able to generate the impression that the average American is financing his campaign, $20 at a time. Regardless of political affinity, I think there is a huge lesson in there somewhere for future candidates (and for anybody looking to study or improve the system in general).

One of my favorite movies of all time is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" starring Jimmy Stewart. Granted, it's a bit sappy and naive; but, I honestly think it embodies what most Americans want in their elected officials. Our current election process, with all of its machinery and carefully calculated precision, seems incapable of sending Mr. Smith back to Washington (unless, of course, he has been unusually successful at amassing a small personal fortune in the meantime). My observation isn't meant to detract from yours, but simply to point out that even the best system might still merit further improvement.