The Politics Of Marathon Campaigns, Big Money & Hurricanes

One disturbing aspect of the recent presidential campaign was the length of it.  Candidates began the vote-seeking process over a year ago.  Americans were like prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, chained in front of a screen, forced to watch the events but not participating.  It did no good to change to another news channel.  It was the same information on a 24/7 loop, with another slant. If we were lucky, we would get another camera angle, but it was the same information, day after day, week after week, ad infinitum. How many times must an audience be subjected to the same stump speech? 

In the last months before Election Day, viewers were treated to old speeches of the candidates that were dredged out of some archive or had been newly discovered on someone’s video camera from years before.  The reality of the discovery is that both political campaigns were actively engaged in digging up dirt to make the other guy look bad.  They even coined a phrase for it, “The October Surprise”.  Where would we get memorable quotes to broadcast on that continuous loop without the eager assistance of the campaign mudslingers?  Who can forget those memorable phrases, like “You didn’t build that”, or the classic “47%”?

I equate the latest presidential campaign with a trauma I suffered at Disneyworld many years ago.  I was with my young son, and we went on the “It’s a Small World” ride.  We sat in the boat, and entered the fantasy world.  Disney characters began singing, “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all!”, and then the boat stopped.  The ride broke down, and I quickly knew that the “It’s a Small World” song was the only song that those Disney characters knew.  For the next half-hour, we sat among the Disney characters and they sang the same song.  Years later, I can’t get that song out of my head.  It’s tattooed on my brain.  The world of 24/7 campaign reporting was having the same effect on me, and from my limited discussions with other voters, they feel the same way…or even worse, they refuse to talk about it.

It has been reported by Governor Romney that President Clinton called him recently, and they had a half-hour conversation.  It is unknown whether the conversation was moderated by Candy Crowley, but Mr. Romney disclosed that Mr. Clinton had opined that he had lost the election due to Hurricane Sandy.  It had given the momentum of the campaign to President Obama.  The natural disaster had provided the opportunity for the president to look presidential, and presumably, to be seen with New Jersey Governor Christie, a Republican, who heaped praise on the president for being presidential, and for standing presidential for photo opportunities in the midst of devastation just days before the election.

I agree with President Clinton.  A hurricane was the cause of Mr. Romney’s loss and President Obama’s re-election.  I disagree that Hurricane Sandy was the cause.  It was a hurricane of another kind, a hurricane of public opinion.  We simply grew tired of the campaign, and when Sandy let us have a few days off, we took them gladly.  When the appropriate time had passed for the political campaigns to resume, we were already getting comfortable with the idea that the campaign was over, and we had already begun putting it all behind us.  The political campaigns were not done, but we were.

You can’t blame the political campaigns, or the paid consultants, the political parties, or the networks.  After all, they had their BILLION DOLLAR budgets to spend.  They had already bought the airtime.  The flyers were already on their way to your mailboxes, even if the last time you saw your mailbox, it was floating down your street.  They were intent on getting you back on track.  The frenzy was there and it was well-funded, but America had moved on.  Just days before the election, One tenth of one percent before the election (I made that up to give the stat checkers something to do after the election), America had stopped listening.

I’m certain that if Mitt Romney had those last days to do over again, he would not have holed up in Ohio until the storm blew over.  He would have bought himself and the campaign a helicopter if he hasn’t already done that, and he would have put on a pair of jeans.  He would have boarded that helicopter and ordered his pilot to go find Governor Christie.  He would have posed for photo opportunities in the midst of the devastation while trying to wrap his arm around the governor, and he would have made victory gestures in front of the cameras. 

He would feel the urge to make a stump speech, but that would be a mistake.  He would get more votes by hugging everyone who lost their home, and everyone who looked like they needed a hug. He would have looked presidential, and he would have done it for America. After all, it is politically incorrect for politicians to campaign in the midst of a national disaster. 

The marathon election process is over, and we need to change the process of electing a president.  The campaign should be like deer-hunting season;  short and controlled.  We should only let the campaigns, the parties, and the PACs spend money during one month, or if they whine too loudly, two months before the election.  They can buy up all of the airtime, and I will be able to schedule my European vacation.  I will not sit through another round of campaign rhetoric.  If you agree, send this article to every politician you know.  They won’t like my opinions, but what the hell. 

It’s America.