When voters in Maine and across the nation finally go to the polls in November, it will mark the end of a seemingly endless campaign for the presidency. The campaign process will have spanned some 18 months from start to finish and will have involved the expenditure of ridiculous amounts of money. Television and social media rule the day, frequently turning what should be thoughtful and serious deliberation into a theater of the absurd. It is an abysmal way to choose the individual who will preside over our country and our armed forces as the presumptive leader of the free world.
Consider the money.
Because the situation changes daily, it’s impossible to be precise. But a Center for Responsive Politics report for the 2016 election cycle, based on Federal Election Commission data published last month, showed candidates still in the race having raised $620 million, $416 million of that coming from super Political Action Committees (PACs) supporting them. In the 2012 election cycle, the two major candidates – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – spent close to $1.12 billion, not counting millions more spent by the parties and outside groups. Overall, the 2012 presidential race cost more than $2.6 billion. Think about the time and energy involved in organizing and participating in such huge money-raising efforts and the greater good that could have been accomplished were that money used for more constructive purposes. And does anybody truly believe that those who contribute such extraordinary sums of money don’t expect a degree of access and influence far beyond that available to ordinary citizens?
Consider the process.
With President Obama now completing his second and final term, this year’s presidential race began as a free-for-all, especially on the Republican side. No fewer than 16 candidates entered the fray in 2015 before the field eventually narrowed to the three who remain standing: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
But a sitting president of either major party who chooses to run for re-election must plan, in the final year of his term, to spend much of his time, energy and resources on the campaign trail, not on presidential duties. He also becomes a target for the opposition party in Congress, contributing further to the political polarization that undermines the legislative process.
The time is ripe for change.
Four years ago, this newspaper and others first proposed a constitutional amendment that would establish a single, six-year term for the president of the United States. The current election cycle has only strengthened the need for such a change. A single term would allow the president to focus all of his or her time and energy on the issues confronting the nation and the world. Statesmanship, not partisanship, could guide the occupant of the Oval Office. With no concern about re-election, the president would enter office running only against history, with the freedom to concentrate on fostering the kind of cooperation and consensus enabling our nation and its people to grow and prosper. Gone would be the demand for a sitting president to spend the better part of two years as a partisan candidate, distracted by the need to raise re-election funds. The single term would permit the president to focus on running the country the entire length of his or her term of office.
A single six-year term also would eliminate interruption of the nation’s business that now occurs every four years. No delays on needed legislation. No posturing by the opposite party to make the incumbent look bad. No excuses or delays in considering appointments. The business of the nation would take precedence over politics.
The influence of big money also would be scaled back because the president would have no need to seek financial support for another campaign. And millions of Americans would get two additional years of relief from a national campaign that increasingly subjects our nation to ridicule, rather than admiration, as it reduces the political process to its lowest common denominator.
To become a reality, the proposal for a single, six-year term will require widespread public support. But we believe it represents the potential for significant and desperately needed improvement to our political system.