Hillary Clinton: the one name that is continuously dropped during speculative discussion of the 2016 Presidential Election. Is she going to run? Who is she going to choose as her running mate? When will she declare? This last question in particular comes up week after week in editorials attempting to predict when Hillary will declare her candidacy or why she hasn’t yet declared. A recent Politico article examined the two most likely causes for her hesitancy to enter the field; she is either freezing or shielding the rest of the Democratic field.
If, as many people believe, Clinton has already decided to run, then the wait may be a political move in order to prevent competitors from entering the field. Potential candidates are reluctant to enter a field in which their main opponent for the nomination is raising enormous amounts of money without campaigning or even declaring her intention to run—the uncertainty freezes the field. On the other hand, this tactic helps Clinton’s Democratic challengers immensely if she has decided not to run. While she stands in the limelight, other Democrats can begin preparing their campaigns without the immense pressure that accompanies the public scrutiny in a run for office.
Clinton is in a unique position. She has the credibility, money, and support to declare and win the Democratic nomination with little trouble, and she can’t be strong-armed into declaring by other candidates. She has, more than any candidate in the recent past, the ability to set her own timeframe for a campaign (within limits, of course). In an era of increasingly long and drawn-out campaigns, it would be refreshing to return to a reasonable time-span—a campaign that covers one year, not three.
Historically, presidential campaigns have started and ended in time periods much shorter than recent runs. Kennedy, for instance, declared his candidacy on January 2nd, 1960—a mere 10 months from the election. In comparison, President Obama declared his first presidential run on February 10th, 2007—21 months prior to Election Day. In less than 50 years, the campaign length more than doubled; a daunting thought when one takes into consideration the time, work, and money that goes into each campaign. Leading up to the 2012 election, President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney spent a combined $2 billion dollars on their campaigns—more than $1 billion apiece and over $30 a second. This is a sizable fortune, especially when one considers that Mitt Romney spent this money and still lost. Many would agree that these funds could be better spent elsewhere.
A logical way to decrease spending during campaigns is to shorten them—one could save a vast amount of money if campaign time was only one year, not two. Candidates would need to buy less advertisement time, pay less for employees, and spend less time flying or staying in hotels. One might think that a candidate that does this will be at a direct disadvantage; after all, he or she would have less time to get a message to the voters. The candidates, however, have done it before in less time; why not again?
Of course, a drastic reduction in campaign length would require participation from all presidential nominees to prevent a major advantage for one candidate. This expectation, however, is naïve and against capitalist ideals—without any reason or disincentive to do otherwise, each candidate is going to do anything in his or her power to gain a lead over the others. This is why campaigns have become so long in the first place. How, then, could federal campaigns be shortened? Federal laws preventing early campaigning would be difficult to enforce, because campaigners could “unofficially” begin their campaigns as early as desired. If a tradition of shorter campaigns was revived, however, such laws could follow.
Tradition has a huge influence on the American presidency; Washington’s decision to leave office after two terms became the norm and eventually led to a Constitutional Amendment. A hugely influential candidate would be needed if this tradition was to be successful, and Hillary Clinton is that candidate. If Clinton decides to run, she can choose to start her campaign as late as she wants, and therefore has the power to shape a year-long campaign tradition. No other Democrat will declare while she waits, and the Republicans are powerless to force her hand while working on their own primary.
She could not do it alone. Future candidates will need to uphold this tradition and hold off on campaigning. Americans shouldn’t be barraged with promises and 2016 goals when the current president is only halfway through his term. We’re getting ahead of ourselves—the future of the country is important, but we can’t ignore the present. Obamacare, the conflict in Ukraine, these are things that matter now—not just as factors do be discussed in the next presidential debate. I’m waiting with everyone for Hillary Clinton to announce her candidacy. We should just wait a few months longer.