Is the campaign too long?

If you want to run for president, you better plan on having breakfasts in Iowa at least two years before an election, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, did in 2014. Charlie Neibergall | AP

There’s a pretty good joke making the rounds ahead of the World Series, which starts tonight in Cleveland.

“It’s been so long since the Cubs or Indians have won a World Series that the last time they did, the presidential campaign of 2016 hadn’t even started yet.”

That campaign, of course, ends in a couple of weeks, followed minutes later by the start of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Last year, Canada’s national campaign lasted just 11 weeks.

“Why do Americans keep doing this to themselves?” The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman asked earlier this month.

The downside is pretty clear: A nation torn asunder that can’t hope to heal enough, if at all, to allow itself to be effectively governed.

But there’s an upside, Friedman says. Long campaigns give us the time to learn who we’re voting for. And we must need it. Today’s poll results from the Star Tribune shows a somewhat surprising number of us — 6 percent — still don’t know who we favor in the race for president.

In any election cycle, misinformation and disinformation vie with factual information, Stevenson and Vavreck note. But over the course of an extended, competitive campaign, factual information tends to win out. “Shorter campaigns may produce ‘happier’ voters, in the sense that they do not watch leaders attacking each other for so long,” they write, “but shorter campaigns may also produce less ‘enlightened’ voters who don’t know as much about the candidates and issues facing them.”

The challenge for the media is to embrace the upsides of America’s long election rather than the downsides—to focus less on “who won the week,” who’s up or down in the latest polls, and who just said what about whom, and more on the evidence that has accumulated over the last year and a half regarding the key issues in the campaign, the candidates’ experience, and their policy proposals.

Americans, after all, have 500 days’ worth of clues about how their would-be leaders would actually lead the country. U.S. presidential elections generate a lot of useless noise, but they also convey a powerful signal about those applying for the most powerful job on the planet.

Meh, says singer Sheryl Crow, who started a Change.org petition to call attention to her assertion that the campaign is too long.

This election cycle has been extremely damaging and has incited fear and hatred in a country founded on the beauty of our differences and the desire to lift each person, no matter race, religion, political party, or economic status, to reach his or her fullest potential.

We love our country. It is because we love our country that we want to limit the length of the campaign season. By tweaking the Presidential primary calendar, the DNC and RNC could drastically reduce the amount of time we are exposed to presidential campaigns.

No matter how many people sign Crow’s petition, it’s most certainly dead on arrival.