I mean what we commonly call “the election,” which is more precisely the presidential campaign season, an utter fiasco that consumes half our public attention half the time and makes our country meaner, stupider, and more frightening. The way we are “helped” to choose our presidents is not conducive to choosing well, nor does it advance us in the necessary task of living with each other after the choice is made.
The most obvious and achievable reform is drastically shortening the campaign timeline, which since 1976 has roughly doubled in length and will, at this rate, span the entire presidential term by the time my children can vote. The 2016 election ran 596 days from the first candidacy announcement to Election Day; this year, it was either 1,194 days (if we count John Delaney’s July 2017 announcement) or 673 days (if we go from Elizabeth Warren’s race entrance in December 2018).
Four years ago, my colleague Damon Linker argued for a six-month campaign season, four months for the primaries and two for the general. I agreed then, but now I think he was too generous. We could do it in less than half that time — say, a month to pick nominees and a month to pick a winner. I’m thinking two rounds of three weeks of Tuesday night debates, and on the fourth Tuesday, an election: Debate, debate, debate, vote. Debate, debate, debate, vote.