June 30, 2017 37th and O

Making Washington Work: Reforming the Campaign Season


by Team Scott: Don Soffer, Kuran Malhotra, Briana Thompson, Sam Granville, and Justice Bennett

*This is one in a series of "Hackathon" projects that Student Strategy Team members put together throughout the course of the 2016-2017 school year.                                          

The Problem: Campaigns in this country are too long.

The Solution: Cut the timeline in half and make the primaries more representative of modern American demographics

Date: December 2, 2016

Exposition

On this year’s Election Day, more than 85% of voters said they just “wanted it to be over” and that this election made them feel “exhausted” and “anxious”. When it’s something as important as electing the next President of the United States, it shouldn’t be this way. But it’s not even the voters fault.

Hillary Clinton announce her candidacy in April of 2015. 576 days. 19 months before the election. Donald Trump announced his candidacy in July of 2015 — 484 days before the election. How much politics can we possibly expect to inundate the voters before they just give up?

On top of that, over 6 billion dollars was spent campaigning for the election — greater than the GDP of over 40 countries — and at the end of it all voters still thought the one aspect of the campaign that wasn’t adequately covered was what the candidates actual policies are.

We need to change up the election timeline.

Cut it in half.

We propose that candidates for the role of President not be allowed to announce a campaign until the year of the election (January 1). Under our system, it would allow candidates to raise money and campaign for three months until primary elections started in April and May. But the problem doesn’t stop there.

Often times, candidates have to win the first primary elections — Iowa and New Hampshire — to develop any sort of momentum to win the nomination. However, they’re nearly the furthest states from being representative of the overall population in terms of race, education, age, median income, and religiosity. Instead, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina should lead the way.

By cutting down the election cycle, we seek to have a more representative government, increased voter turnout, decrease election spending, and increase the focus on governing. With only a few months to develop a narrative, candidates will have to focus on their policy and win over voters in a way they haven’t had to in recent cycles.

We think we’ve put together a really strong list of reforms, but there will definitely be some obstacles when attempting to implement them. The most daunting one is campaign finance. We’re concerned that even if we make the primaries more representative of the American public, outside spending will drown out voters, leaving them just as dissatisfied and disillusioned with the campaign cycle as they are now.

In terms of the timeline, while shortening the campaigning period has clear benefits, potential candidates will still be able to unofficially campaign under the guise of exploratory committees. It’s very difficult to prevent someone from saying that they are “potentially thinking, about examining the possibility of running” for president. On balance, the new electoral timeline at least prevents candidates from officially campaigning for the nearly two year period that they do currently.

What our country needs now is a balance of time for broader collective discussions on national identity and a reasonable campaign timeline that doesn’t exhaust voters and doesn’t waste billions of dollars without even accomplishing the end goal of educating voters.

The Student Strategy Team of The Student Strategy Team of Don Soffer, Kuran Malhotra, Briana Thompson, Sam Granville, Justice Bennett were advised by Scott Mulhauser, Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Embassy, Beijing; former Chief of Staff, Export-Import Bank of the U.S., and GU Politics Fall 2016 Fellow.

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