It’s that time again! As if anyone would have to be told. We have been subjected to newspaper and magazine ads, TV commercials and debates, radio spots, billboards, telephone calls, and other forms of torture for what must be the longest presidential campaign of the forty-nine we have had or are having.
George Washington didn’t have to campaign — he was almost chosen by acclamation. Crowds followed in his wake wherever he went, and there was a lot of talk about crowning him king — something he fought tooth and nail to prevent.
When the Revolutionary War was over, many factions in the Army felt that their old commander would make a great king. He sent this letter to one of the military who was proposing he become “George I of the United States.” “Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or any one else, a sentiment of like Nature. “
Things at that time were quite different from what we have now. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson ran for the presidency in 1879 and Aaron Burr and Jefferson ran for the office in 1800. They were elected by states. When the serious ballot counting began in January 1801, with state representatives voting, Jefferson won on the nineteenth ballot.
Once the Electoral College began functioning the entire election process ran quite smoothly. One reason for that was that candidates did not campaign in their own behalf, which generally reduced the fireworks which we have to endure today.
That is no longer the case.
It was in 1952 that television took over elections. They tried hard to be accurate, but when one channel started picking winners before all the ballots had been cast, much less counted, things got complicated and many correspondents had to recall previous announcements and proclaim new “winners.” From that time on, the presidential election process has been, as someone once called it, “like selling the presidency as if it were cereal.”
The new age of presidential elections has grown fast. Media of all kinds are working to get their share of the huge sums of money now being spent by candidates and “interested parties.” People thousands of miles away are trying hard to influence the outcome of local elections for reasons of their own.
It is doubtful that a correct total of all the funds spent in all the campaigns for various offices will ever be accounted for. If that ever happened the figures will be absolutely awesome.
Somewhere along the line we, as a nation have lost our collective sense of values and reason. We read or hear of a candidate for president receiving support funds in $5,000,000 lots — not just once but several times from the same supporter. That’s just one candidate for one office. Think of the literally hundreds, perhaps thousands running for thousands of offices —- federal, state, county and municipal. Then think of all the money they have spent and are spending —- their own, contributions from other individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations. When the votes have been counted where is that money? For most of those candidates it’s gone, like stock in a failing market.
We know that a great deal of money has been spent by the “wanna-bees” and the very serious candidates and those in between who have campaigned for the office of President of the United States. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent to put their candidates in office. That money would go far toward paying off our national debt.
The British Isles have a much more sensible election system. The King or Queen and the members of the House of Lords are not elected. Each member of the House of Commons is elected from a district. Campaigning for those is limited to usually about six weeks, a budget determined by the size of the district. Any candidate who over-spends his or her budget is no longer a candidate. That seems to be a pretty good election routine.
Maybe we should try it.