How Long Should This Take?

Tue, 01 Jul 2008 15:05:08 +0000

I was wondering over the past few days, particularly with the recent media attention devoted to General Wesley Clark's appearance on Face the Nation and its several day aftermath in the news media, how long it should take people to make up their minds about how to cast their ballots in an election like this year's primaries or general election. The relevance Clark's interview is that I think it is a good example of a political celebrity saying something that is not well considered (to put it charitably), easy to sensationalize in an excerpt, and of almost no consequence in helping voters decide which candidate to support.

Suppose that you had all candidates' websites available and a few nationally televised debates covering domestic and foreign policy were scheduled. What more would you need? A few hours on a single day? Several hours spread over a few days? Many hours spread over a few weeks? A couple of hours a week spread over a few months? I think these categories cover most peoples' answers. But our current system, which I might charitably describe as many months of campaigning accompanied by daily media inundation, seems to take more time and achieve less in terms of helping voters make intelligent decisions.

The current schedule wasn't designed with the current media environment in mind. If we cut the duration of the campaign season in half, would we get rid of more news or more noise, like the Clark interview? I think it would be the latter.