Most of what is needed to make significant improvements to American democracy will be difficult. This is largely so because Republicans stand in opposition to leveling the playing field. Clearly, we need to provide universal access to the ballot box, convenient times for voting, and perhaps most importantly, public financing of elections.
But here are a couple of easy improvements that might even appeal to Republicans. They all have to do with time management issues.
Candidates are forced to keep ridiculous schedules while campaigning.They are sleep-deprived, and their brains are often numbed by repeating the same platitudes over and over to different audiences. There are times when the fatigue and monotony can come back to bite a candidate.
Recently, Hillary Clinton made a factual error when she said that Nancy and Ronald Reagan were on the vanguard of opening discussion in the United States on AIDS. As reported in the Washington Post:
It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about AIDS in the 1980s,” Clinton said. “And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular Mrs. Reagan –we started a national conversation.”
The Post further reported,
But that’s not how LGBT and AIDS advocates remember it. Both Reagans have been criticized for being slow to acknowledge the AIDS crisis. President Reagan addressed it in a speech in 1987, six years after it had been recognized as a serious public health problem. The comments caused an uproar online, including among prominent LGBT and HIV/AIDS activists. Hours later, in a statement, Clinton apologized for making the comments on MSNBC.
Okay, Hillary Clinton got it wrong, and it offended many, particularly those who were fighting the battles of the LGBT communities in the 1980s. But in defense of Hillary Clinton, this was thirty years ago, and she has lived a life since then full of far more intense experiences than most people live in a lifetime. She’s not always going to get it right; none of us is. She was in a difficult position, essentially being at the funeral because she had shared the First Lady experience with Mrs. Reagan. From Clinton’s point of view as a progressive and as a far more liberated woman than Nancy Reagan, it may well have been difficult for her to think of an appropriate positive thing to say about Mrs. Reagan. In her own mind, it may have been an “oh shit” moment when she started to utter the words.
For those of us who live far less intense lives than candidates for president, we should show a little understanding and patience. To her credit, Clinton apologized quickly, which is interesting, because so much criticism has been directed toward her for how slow she has been in apologizing at other times when it seems warranted.
One way to diminish the likelihood of misstatements would be to build in mandated rest periods during the campaign. In a sense, campaigns are like capitalism run amok; every entity thinks that it needs to perpetually be in “full steam ahead” mode because it fears that if it takes time off, its opponents will gain an unfair advantage. It might be a good idea to simply have designated days off for rest. Since most campaigning involves repetitious platitudes, very little of consequence would be missed if there were off days. As a gesture of good will to the Christian fundamentalists among us, it could be Sunday, or as they call it in St. Louis, “the Lard’s Day.”
Another legitimate complaint about time management is how those candidates who actually hold public office at the time of the campaign are simply not doing their day jobs. We all know of Senator Marco Rubio’s miserable attendance record in the U.S. Senate, but much the same can be said of Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. Chris Christie must have set some sort of record for being AWOL from New Jersey, where he is governor. Now, there are many in New Jersey who felt good riddance and asked him to go away again when he returned, but the bottom line is that he was drawing a public salary while not working. If he was someone who was governing in the public interest when he was on the job, he would have been short-changing his constituents all the while that he was gone. The same could be said about Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Why not multi-lateral disarmament among the candidates for elective office? The candidates are always trying to convince voters how good they are to their core, but their core is withering as they do nothing but campaign and dial for dollars. And most particularly, in this 2015-2016 cycle, with the mammoth media coverage of Donald Trump, have we not missed important news stories that simply go unreported because it’s all politics? Kids in elementary school are often told that they need time-out. This would not be a bad idea for the candidates, the media and the public.