The other night as I was flipping through the channels on the television, I came across a story on income inequality by Bill O’Reilly of The O’Reilly Factor. Having written a past column on minimum wage versus living wage, I was particularly intrigued to watch what he had to say. However, after the story had finished up, the show moved onto another topic — the latest results in the 2016 presidential election polls.
When the results first flashed on the screen I’ll admit, I was a bit shocked. I wasn’t aware that the opinion poll results for an election over two years away was important enough material to headline the 10 o’clock news hour. But after seeing these results, it started to get me thinking about the way our government works when it comes to running for office.
In the 2012 presidential election, more than $1.9 billion was spent between the Democratic and Republican parties in order to support their respective candidates. For the losing candidate, and really even for the winner, this is a whole lot of money spent on practically nothing.
The Republican Party virtually spent a colossal $992 million endorsing their candidate, Mitt Romney, to lose an election. This means that Romney not only lost the presidency, but, people, companies and PACs lost hundreds of millions of dollars that they spent endorsing him to see success. Is watching all this money just being flushed down the drain really the best way to put it to use? Yes, many of the donations come from the wealthy, but does that really make any difference?
In 2010, the World Bank set the international poverty line at $1.25 a day, placing approximately 1.4 billion people at or below the line. Wouldn’t the $992 million wasted on an election be much better spent through organizations that could provide clean water, proper sanitation and health programs for those who have none? I’m not saying the Republican Party, or even the PACs should donate this money, because that’s not how our government works, but what about people and companies who make large donations to campaigns? When it comes down to it, they’re electing someone to create change, especially when they aren’t happy with the current leader. So, then wouldn’t it be more efficient for them to donate the money to an organization that can directly make that change?
Another problem I see with elections in our government has to directly do with the early polling segment that I saw on The O’Reilly Factor. When you’re looking at trends for an election over two years away, many of the candidates running, whether they are leading or not, may not even make it to the nominating conventions of their respective parties. Not only will this cause an error in political scientists’ data, but once again, there is a monetary waste for those candidates who drop out early on.
While both of these issues are clearly problematic, I found that running for the presidential office as an incumbent directly affects the most people. Since candidates start campaigning around two years before the election, this means that half of the president’s four-year term is focused on and consumed with the election, leaving him practically no time to actually do his job. Plus, once re-elected, the last year or so of the second term is useless as Congress, the President’s communication breaks down and the list of items they accomplish lessens — making eight years in office really only four or five years.
So if we find there to be so many problems with presidential elections, then what is the solution? Sadly, it is up to those who cause these problems, to solve them. Once people and companies decide to put their money to good use elsewhere, and when candidates and presidents realize the problems with the system, only then is it when we will see a change.