The Endless Campaign
By Steffen Schmidt
Reading a story on the Web this morning, I saw a prescient Web comment: “Can we just hold the election tomorrow? I am getting so tired reading about politics every damn day.” Therein lies the rub.
The American political process has become a “permanent election.” After we hold an election, all the candidates have to begin raising money for the next election years down the road, and there is no longer any respite from the endless advertisements, snarkiness, hot air emanating from the punsters, “magic screens” larger than most people’s houses, John King, Rush Limbaugh, etc.
I’ll admit that this year the GOP primary season has been more painful than any time in history. It started a year before the Iowa caucuses and exploded with Super PAC money. Now we are only halfway through the primaries but it seems like eternity.
Will the Wisconsin, Maryland, and DC primaries finally end the pain? Will Santorum concede? Will Newt drop out? Will Ron Paul suspend his march to who-knows-where? Will Mitt Romney be crowned the winner on Wednesday after this trifecta?
In short, NO! Even though Romney will sweep these states.
The problem is that Republicans are deeply divided over who should lead the ticket. In her debut as a TV anchor, Sarah Palin didn't sound too enthusiastic about Mitt Romney. Palin is somewhat of a bellweather for me for the “anyone but Romney” crowd.
The problem is that powerful millionaires can now keep campaigns going way past where rational, small investors in campaigns would have stopped giving (see Gingrich and Santorum.)
The problem is that Ron Paul marches to his own tune and has a loyal following that “believes” in the Revolution regardless of how much his campaign is bringing up the rear or third place.
The problem is that secret money can now be shoveled at these political contests in an effort to shape policy and public opinion in the direction of narrow interests.
The problem is that the Republicans structured their primary and caucus rules in such a way that no one could easily win early because the delegated were dribbled out proportionately and in excruciatingly slow stages often stretching out for months (caucuses, county conventions, congressional district conventions, state convention, selection of super delegates, allocation of “bonus delegates.”)
That’s a long list of problems which guarantee that in 2012 the process is more obscure, non-transparent, slow, costly, and, yes, frustrating for the consumers of news and information. It’s our fault. It could be different.
Will it be different next time? I doubt it. It’s gotten nastier, negative, and more expensive every year.
Get used to it. Use your clicker to change channels. Surf non-political Web sites. Or learn to enjoy it and think of it as a game show. That’s what I do.
© WNYC It's a Free Country (reprinted with permission)
Steffen W. Schmidt is a University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (also Coastal Zone Management) at Iowa State University, an affiliate of Nova Oceanographic Center, the author of 11 books, he has more than 40 years analyzing the Iowa Caucuses, is a Des Moines Register blogger, a CNN en Español analyst and commentator and is the Chief Political Correspondent of InsiderIowa.com.