Drawn-out political campaigns cause voters to lose interest

The presidential campaign season has been running for nearly a year and growing in intensity – and there’s still more than a year to go.Surely, I’m not the only one already tired of hearing about the upcoming election. The news is filled 24/7 with campaign stops, speculations and the latest gossip on the myriad of candidates vying for their party’s presidential bid.

The 2008 race is the first non-stop campaign in U.S. history, said Charles Colson, who was special counsel to Richard Nixon, with campaigning beginning the day after the 2004 election.

Four years is just ridiculous.

Although it seems like forever, official campaigning actually began a little less than a year ago when Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., announced his candidacy for office at the end of last October, just more than two years before the upcoming election day.

Former Iowa governor, democrat Tom Vilsack wasn’t far behind, announcing his candidacy just a few weeks later. Though Hunter is still in, Vilsack wasn’t able to gain enough momentum to remain in the race.

This may have become the norm in U.S. presidential elections, but does a campaign this long benefit the people?

I understand that many things come into consideration with the length of campaigns. There must be enough time to hold primaries and select each party’s nomination, but there really must be a more efficient way to do that.

There are two problems that stand out in the current campaign process.

First, only the wealthy survive. With money needed to endure such lengthy campaigns, only those with the most money can keep going, potentially preventing someone who may be well-qualified, but less wealthy, from running.

Second, people have long complained about low voter turnout, with 64 percent of Americans voting in the 2004 presidential election. Perhaps a shorter campaign season would prompt Americans to take the elections more seriously and not lose interest while campaigning drones on.

Washington Post columnist Michael Kazin said the long presidential campaigns are nothing new, dating all the way back to Martin Van Buren. He said the idea that the campaigns are becoming longer is simply a myth.

Kazin may be right, but the difference is in the intense media coverage.

Not a day goes by without coverage of campaign stops and $400 haircuts. All the coverage gives voters no excuse to be uneducated about the candidates, but it does give all the more reason to grow wary of the whole institution as the countdown to election day begins fourteen months prior.

With such intensive media coverage, the information is reduced to trivial facts and water cooler chatter, including things such as John Edwards’ haircuts and Rudy Giuliani’s daughter’s Facebook groups.

By election day, it seems like we will all be experts on the candidates’ personal lives but ignorant of their positions.

Jillian Hutchison is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Omaha, Neb.