The Never Ending Campaign*

Portrait of an egomaniac


(*This is part 1 of a multi-part series. For an explanation go here, for other posts in the series click on the “A Republic If You Can Keep It” category at the bottom of this post.)

The U.S. Presidential campaign season lasts 21 months, or 44% of the time the winner will actually serve as President!

We need almost 2 years to determine who to vote for? No other country does this. Not just today, but ever. No country in the history of the world has ever needed 2 years to elect its next leader. And we do this over, and over; every 4 years!


As recently as 1840 the entire Presidential campaign lasted 5 weeks, from October 30th to December 2nd. Do you want to know something else about the 1840 campaign? It’s the first time any candidate for U.S. President actually campaigned for the office. In the year 1840 William Henry Harrison was the first person to actively campaign on his own behalf in pursuit of office. Campaigning on one’s own behalf was considered unseemly, desperate, egotistical.

Somehow our nation managed to elect competent, often great, Executive leaders with only 5 weeks or fewer notice (and this was before there were telegraph wires spanning the country, let alone 24/7 news channels piped into people’s homes), and without even hearing from the candidates themselves! Even as recently as FDR, candidates did not actively campaign until after the convention. That’s right, AFTER! It was considered unseemly, desperate and egotistical to ask to be nominated.

Are there any British Prime Minsters you admire; Churchill? Thatcher? Major? Blair? Guess how long election season is there? One month. 4 little weeks. Germany? 6 weeks. France? 2 weeks. Canada? Has to be at least 36 days, but 11 weeks is the record so far.

It’s not apples to apples comparing the U.S. to other countries, but put yourself in the winged-tipped oxfords of a voter in England or France or Canada reading about the U.S. elections in your daily issue of Der Suddeutsche Zeitung. It doesn’t make us seem very attentive.

3 comments to The Never Ending Campaign*

  • Ken in NH

    Back in the 1800s and even up to the 1930s, the stakes were relatively low. The presidency had very little governmental power. Starting with the civil service reform act, which essentially created a 4th branch of government, and solidified by FDR’s tenure creating agency after agency and hammering SCOTUS into compliance, the president became the head of a large, very powerful organization. Since then, Congress has been all to willing to cede power to the vast bureaucratic apparatus in a vain effort to evade responsibility.

    Besides making the correct, but very unwinnable, decision to drop the bomb, the one thing Truman did that is noteworthy is dismantling much of the New Deal. The behemoth was not dead though, only in repose. I could blame LBJ for reawakening the beast, but just as only Nixon could go to China, only he could truly revive the big government agenda. (I guess maybe Nelson Rockefeller would have done the same.) Reagan was great and did a lot to slow and reverse the tide, but even he was too late. Had he been nominated in 1968 instead, I think we would be looking at a completely different, and better, country today.

  • Magnus Caseus Formatis

    Nature and politics both abhorr a vacuum. The difference is that nature isn’t ego-centric.