It can, perhaps, be excused in Idaho because we will elect our State executives in 2022. On the national political stage, it is unnecessary to be considering who will be a challenger for President in 2024. We have no idea about what issues will have the most urgent needs, but already individuals are ready to tell us they will be prepared to solve them. There are also sponsors eager to support them and gain the influence in public policy they lack at present.
They are stealing time and attention from citizens who need to concentrate on today’s situations. The future always depends upon what happens today, but way too much of our pseudo-news media contains information about political personalities and theoretical intelligence concerning potential game plans. Our duty to be good citizens must be fulfilled by consideration of cold, hard facts.
Is what we think of as the news hour not much different from Entertainment Tonight? Most cable news became a lost cause after Ted Turner and his insistence upon news reading disappeared in imitation of FOX news. Does even network news spend precious minutes showing personal accounts to focus our attention—on the twelve minutes of advertising that pays for the 30-minute broadcast?
What action will end the influence of the never-ending Presidential campaign without censorship? Before the immense concentration of wealth in institutions and a minority of individuals, there was no interest in frequent political donations. Currently, this group has excess money to their need for investment in their growth and well-being. They can spend to influence. Rather than waiting for candidates to emerge from widespread consensus about issues, they can popularize their issues and finance candidates who will agree with them. The Public Relations (PR) industry has benefitted from efforts to gain the electorate’s attention.
The addition of digital and cable media to the varieties relevant during the twentieth century has only added to the number of times and the number of ways a message can gain our attention over time. The expansion of the interpretation of celebrity has allowed this influence to expand without cost. Some people can command the media because anything they say is attention worthy. I intentionally did not use the term newsworthy because I believe that we have been trained to pay attention to the inconsequential.
One answer to the problem I’ve posed is to legislate both the campaign and fundraising season. Primary elections rather than convention horse-trading have significantly changed the campaign season. At the same time, they have allowed voters to have better access to their preferred party’s selection. One way of curtailing the never-ending campaign is to hold a national primary. One day, all states. That day should be one month before any party’s national convention. Candidates could only collect campaign funds for six months before the primary. They would need fewer funds because the established parties would collect funds and fund more of their party’s debates. Many of them would be regional. A candidate’s campaign funds would stand up state support and travel expenses.
Because there would be no limits on state campaign seasons, each state-wide campaign could emphasize state issues. Those issues and their perceived popularity would, and should, become essential topics during the campaign for our Nation’s CEO. PACs would need to concentrate on funding PR campaigns for their issues rather than boosting a candidate. In a way, current practice allows PACs to launder their points of view through campaign rhetoric, obscuring their involvement. Contributions to PACs should be transparent.
An effective campaign results in a large voter turnout. That would not change. Modern technology and media add efficiency to the effort. Still, they also aid the spread of inconsequential information disguised as personal attacks on an opponent or false information and outright propaganda.
Constraining the campaign season does not limit speech. There are additional ways for candidates and others to express their point(s) of view. The hyperbole of a campaign speech is out of place when serious matters are discussed reasonably. The listener or observer expects passion from a proponent, but the skepticism necessary for good judgment is lost in the emotion of a pep rally.
Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at IdahoAuthor@outlook.com. She welcomes feedback.