Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What the British Elections can teach us

The British Elections for Prime Minister are eight days away.

I don’t drink tea, (even ice tea) I don’t say “bloody” every other word and I don’t want a king and queen over America. All of that said there are things about the British Elections that here in America it would not be a bad idea to imitate.
I’m not talking about the fact that in the prime minister debate they had seven party nominees competing. (This wasn’t even the primaries!) Nor am I saying that we should call each other names like they do, (idiot, dodgy, useless, just to name a few) or scream and stomp each other down like they do. Americans have enough anger issues without needing anything exported from our “mother nation.” But I am talking about the fact that their campaign season lasts just six weeks.
That’s it, just six. Five weeks ago the campaigns began with a speech from the current prime minister, David Cameron; he notified the queen he was dissolving congress after five years of continuance, gave a speech trashing his opponents, and was off to the races. And eight days from today the elections will be held.
That’s a bit different then America. Here, the campaigns seemed to start as soon as the Networks called it for Obama in 2012, with speculation about who it would be in 2016. If Britain does a hundred yard dash of a race, we do a marathon-no, make that two marathons back to back. (Nomination then general) We are still well over 200 days out from the first caucus for the Republican Nomination, and already we have Republicans trading blows, trying to raise money and hit each other.
And here she is: the 89 year old Queen of England, the woman who will officially decide
gets to run the joint when its all over, in reality she will, as always, choose the head of
the party that garners the most seats in the House of  Commons to form the government.
As for the Democrats, they seem to already have chosen their person, and now all pundits seem to be able to talk about is that she went to Chipotle. The cycle of news is vicious and very, very, very long.
And it fills up the airways-seriously, with a 24 hour news cycle one would think there is plenty of time for everything, but apparently not. We can either follow Hillary and her “logo crisis” or we can know what is actually going with the president we already elected, but we can’t know both.
The whole point of the Presidential Race in the first place is that we will elect someone who then become president, and start leading. But with the endless campaigns, and this is at all levels of elected office, incumbents have to spend thousands and thousands of hours campaigning.  And even when they win, they have to keep up the endless fundraisers, meet and greats, etc. that take up so much time.
The Presidential Race especially is already off and running and we are still 558 days away! By comparison, the British Elections could take place 13 times between now and then.
Now obviously there are differences between ours and the British Elections. We are a larger country, four to five times larger. So our cycles would naturally take longer. But the truth is, 600 day campaigns come at a colossal cost to pocketbooks of donors and candidates, as well as news networks. But the biggest cost isn’t in money. It’s in the fact that with all of the interest in who will inhabit the oval office next, or indeed any office next, way too much time is taken away, not only in the people’s interest in what decisions are being made that affect them, but for incumbent presidents as well as senators and congress people who have much less time to do the job they were hired to do, because they are too busy collecting votes to study issues and look for answers to the real questions.
The problem will probably continue for years to come. America has always loved a good competition from the Kentucky Derby to the World Series, so it is natural that they would follow the grandest of all like it’s the Super Bowl. But it’s not really a good thing.
What the British Elections can teach us is that, as has been seen to those closely following the campaigns there, the issues come out, the people and candidates become known. It doesn't take years to get to know candidates, especially if they tell the truth. And another factor is that with the races so short, the people are paying much closer attention, so not only are they better informed, but also a candidate who slips up is in worst trouble.
With the British Elections coming down to the wire and the Liberals and Conservatives neck to neck in the polls, there has been a fear in British Newspapers for some time now-they think that maybe their six week elections cycle is too long.

Andrew C. Abbott

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