Americans beset by perpetual campaigns

Other democracies have laws that limit their presidential campaigns to a matter of a few months or weeks.

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Editorials

December 27, 2022 - 3:12 PM

People listen to Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) speak during the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11, 2019. (Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

One characteristic of American life distinguishes our country from all other democracies: Our political campaigns are never-ending. The moment one election cycle ends, the nation begins focusing on the next. Even if candidates have not formally declared their intentions, we have already begun the 2024 campaign. These extended campaigns have led to increased partisanship, distrust and anxiety.

Other nations do not have extended campaign seasons. In Mexico, a law stipulates that campaigns start 90 days before the election, with an additional 60-day period for candidates to compete for the nomination. In Canada in 2015, the campaign season lasted 11 weeks, making it the longest campaign in that country’s history. In France, campaigning prior to the first round of a presidential election can last no longer than two weeks. In Argentina, the campaign is limited to 35 days, although advertising is permitted to begin a few weeks earlier.

The First Amendment, guardian of American liberty, in this instance stymies political reform. The U.S. can’t make the strict campaign rules other nations live under. But one area where reform is possible is the primary system.

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