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Duration:03:31
Uploaded:2015-08-11
Last sync:2018-11-22 05:50
In which John explores why he is not (yet) interested in the so-called Presidential Race, and discusses the U.S.'s campaign length in the context of other democracies. Side note that I couldn't fit into the video: The media is heavily invested in longer campaigns, because those campaigns buy ads on cable news (and on YouTube). I'll discuss that in another video. But for now, rest safe in the knowledge that I will not mention Donald Trump (or any other Presidential candidate in the 2016 Presidential election) until, like, 2016.

Thanks to Rosianna for the research help: http://youtube.com/rosianna
If you're interested in this stuff and would like to know more, here are a couple good articles to read:
Our elections are too long: http://mic.com/articles/3649/the-2012-presidential-election-is-too-long
How Presidential Campaigns Became Two Year Marathons: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/upshot/how-presidential-campaigns-became-two-year-marathons.html?_r=1


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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday, August 10th, 2015, which means that the next US presidential election is just 454 days away.  Hank, somewhere in the US, later tonight, an egg will be fertilized, and that single cell will grow into two and then four and then much later, a baby will be born, an actual human being will be thrust into the world for the first time, and it will cry, presumably over the state of American political discourse.  Hank, that baby, which has not technically been conceived yet, will be six months old before we elect a president!  It will be laughing at its own farts by the time we actually vote. 

So, Hank, campaign cycles are getting longer around the world, but like, in the UK, people don't start paying serious, proper attention to the election until five weeks before it happens, when the Queen dissolved parliament.  In Canada, the 2015 campaign period is 78 days, among the longest in Canadian history, and not coincidentally, also the most expensive.  

Ahh, but what I wouldn't give for 78 days.  Hank, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Australia, none of these places have campaign cycles lasting longer than 100 days.  Quick primer for non-Americans, in the US, most states hold so-called "primary" elections five to ten months before the proper election.  In these primaries, Republican and Democratic voters choose who they want to be their party's candidate for president, and then those people face each other in the general election.  In the end, the whole process takes about 23 times longer than it does in the UK, and also costs 40 times more, so that's nice.

How did this happen?  Well, as with most things in American history, it used to be much worse.  For most of American history, the president wasn't really elected democratically.  For one thing, most people couldn't vote, because most people were either women or not white.  But even most white males had no say in their party's presidential candidates, because those candidates were chosen either by Congress or by powerful members of the party.  But then, more people could vote and primaries started to gain traction and in January of 1960, John F. Kennedy made history by declaring his candidacy very early, almost a full year before the election, and there's no way Kennedy could have become president under the old system, he was too...how do I put this delicately?  Catholic.  But actual voters liked him more than the Democratic party establishment did, so he became a nominee and eventually the President.  

And that's the argument for a long campaign cycle, it allows underdogs to build momentum and in doing so, makes the whole process more democratic.  But the length of presidential campaigns has doubled since Kennedy, and costs have skyrocketed and I struggle to see what we get for all that time and money.  There aren't a lot of serious policy discussions at this point, actual clowns are being treated as serious contenders for the presidency, and instead of focusing on governing, people have to focus entirely on campaigning.  I mean, we're in the middle of a 22 month, multi-billion dollar presidential campaign, but we haven't had a long-term bill to fund highways in four years.  

So yeah, I'm not paying attention to this so-called presidential campaign at the moment.  Now, I'm not criticizing those who do choose to care about the US presidential campaign now, there's lots of great organizing and activism going on around the candidates, but focus is elsewhere at the moment.  It's on my kids and this great book that I just read and the elections in Haiti two days ago that finally occurred after three years of delays.  

Here's my pledge.  I will begin caring about the US presidential election 100 days before the May 3rd primary here in Indiana.  So if on January 23rd, 2016, Donald Trump is still a candidate for president of the United States, I will think about Donald Trump for the first time in my life, and I will seek to understand his strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate.  Until then, I will remain blissfully ignorant.  Hank, I will see you on Friday.