Speaking before a local civic group recently, I posed the following questions: How many of you are tired of hearing about the presidential election? If you could, would you choose to vote right now, ending all of the discussion, political ads, and cable news coverage?
Hands shot up in the air. Every single person in the room was ready for the circus that is the 2016 presidential election to end.
Let’s examine where we are today and how we got here. In 1968, when the concept of holding national party primary elections was conceived, life was much different for the average voter. The Beatles’ new song Hey Jude topped musical charts, there were only 3 television channels broadcasting the news – cable news channels were still years from being beamed into living rooms across the country – and the Internet did not exist. In today’s world, where the 24-hour news cycle reigns, anyone with a smartphone and a Twitter account can be a journalist, and talking heads fill the airwaves, it makes little sense to continue the presidential primary process we adopted four decades ago.
In the Information Age, it is no longer necessary to undergo an elongated presidential primary process. Both the national Republican and Democrat parties encourage over-scrimmaging at their own peril. They throw a slew of candidates into the gauntlet, allow the world to watch as they mercilessly rip each other to shreds, then present the bloodied and battered winner to fight in the final round – the general election – after their stature has been decimated and they have lost credibility worldwide. Elongated primaries serve only to encourage the devolution of policy discussions into mudslinging, fatigue the electorate, and tarnish our country’s image in the eyes of the world. Yearlong national party primaries are a bad 1960’s legacy that needs to be retired.
Imagine if American voters had been able to choose between all 17 Republicans and 6 Democrats who originally sought to become the 45th president of the United States. Instead, the majority of the country was forced to wait until after the first 3 primary elections held in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina greatly narrowed the field, where many of our first, second, and even third choices were culled. It would be fair to assume there would have been a much different outcome. Instead, we are left with two of the most unfavorable candidates in the last 3 decades (as evidenced by recent polls), whom only 9 percent of Americans elected.
So how do we fix this mess?
First, we must wrest control over the presidential primary election process away from the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee. Then, we should institute a National Primary Date in which the entire country casts their vote in a primary that includes all candidates representing all parties on the same day. We propose including all qualified candidates in a primary election held the first Tuesday in April. Additionally, we should follow our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and limit the length of presidential campaigns, preferably to a 90 day period, which is ample time for the candidates to share their vision and describe how they would move our country forward.
Are you in? If so, raise your proverbial hand and contact your elected officials to let them know you think it’s time for a change!
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column shows presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face to face at the second U.S. presidential debate, held at Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo: AP/John Locher)