A Historic Election 


Kyle G. Roesler

Hyperbole is used hyperbolically in much of American life.  In sports, athletes constantly give 110%.  Advertising has made hyperbole an incredible art form - that is, an art form void of credibility.  Does anyone really believe we can all look younger, live longer, and become anatomically enhanced?

Hyperbole reaches new heights in election years.  Every speech is major, each primary key, and every election is historic.  That last phrase should be the most forgivable; after all, becoming President of the United States does guarantee one a place in history.  However, I wish that term could be reserved for moments that occur less often than once every four years.

To me, 2008 looks painfully familiar.  Both candidates have been holding rallies, generating sound bites, and buying TV time for nigh on two years.  As of the end of August, Senator Obama has raised over $400 million and Senator McCain over $190 million, and the other Republicans and Democrats also raised and spent multi-millions on their abbreviated campaigns.  Whomever wins will have promised so much, be indebted to so many, and be so physically exhausted their ability to do, well, anything is severely compromised. 

I propose we make this election truly historic: make it the last election about money.  Before 2012, this country should limit each candidate to spending no more than 0.0001% of the nation's GDP to try to be elected President.  For this election, that would equate to about $13 million per candidate.  Other elections (Senator, Representatives, etc) would be restricted to even smaller percentages of GDP.  I believe this change will have a number of positive effects:

1.  The election season will have to be significantly shorter.  Regional primaries (West, Mountain, Midwest, South, and then the all important Northeast) set a week apart would save a lot of travel time and TV ad money.  These super primaries would begin right after Labor Day, followed by a week for party conventions.  That would leave two weeks for a general election campaign before the first Tuesday in November.  If this country can get ready for the Super Bowl in two weeks, surely we can make up our mind on a President in that same amount of time.

2.  More debates, less BS.  The only way to get on TV without paying will be to hold more debates.  And that’s a good thing.  I strongly suspect Washington and Jefferson intended us to have more political debates and fewer political ads.

3.  Less time to attack one another to maintain the public spotlight.  Candidates always begin all smiles and proudly talk about what they plan to do for America.  Alas, once there is nothing more to say about themselves, they make the evening news by taking pot shots at the opposition.  We should expect higher standards from the men who want to lead us.  They shouldn’t debase themselves by acting like two-year olds. 

4.  The Senators, Governors, and what-not running for President can concentrate on the job they have, not the job they want.  Are the people of Illinois and Arizona being well served by their Senators being AWOL the last two years?

It's simple enough to enact a law that intends to limit campaign spending, but that's just a start.  The key is implementation, to enforce the rules against powerful forces who like the status quo, meaning every lobby and corporation from sea to shining sea.  An election commission, empowered to cancel TV ads and even disqualify candidates, is needed to do two important things:  keep track of spending, and determine which ads are in support of one candidate or the other.  That way, a PAC that places an ad glorifying one candidate or criticizing another would get tallied against their preferred candidate's total.  Also, if TV or newspapers offer free ads, those would be counted at the going ad rate. 

This is not hard to do!  Save the candidates, the political parties, and our country from the excesses of incessant campaigning, and soon, before we have four year long campaigns for president and no one spends any time in the Oval Office.