Cast your minds back to August 4, 2015; the day that then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canadians would be going to the polls on October 19 of the same year.
Remember the outrage when people realized that this meant the campaign would last for 78 days, or 11 weeks, as opposed to the 45 to 50 days that is typical of a federal election? By the time voting day finally came around, people were speaking of the “endless” campaign.
Now cast your eyes southward, where Americans are about to vote in their equivalent of a federal election, which has very few similarities to ours. Yes, Americans are voting for who the next leader of their country will be; but that is about all the two campaigns have in common. Americans will also be voting for candidates in dozens of other positions in their individual states, including attorney-general, senator, commissioner of public lands, superior court judge, county clerk, coroner, councillor, state representative, and sheriff.
Another big difference is the length of time that the American election cycle runs for. All those Canadians who moaned about our endless campaign last year? When the writ was dropped here on August 4, 2015, two of the men who had announced their bid to be the Republican candidate for president had already spent 19 months before that travelling to and from the bellwether state of Iowa, trying to drum up personal support among voters in the Iowa caucus.
Iowa is the first state to start voting for presidential candidates, and gets a good deal of media attention. A presidential bid can be snuffed out by a poor showing in the state (or boosted by a good one); hence the attention that presidential hopefuls Rick Perry and Rick Santorum gave it.
The two men had already been campaigning for 19 months by the time the Canadian election was called. The Iowa caucus took place in February 2016, so that makes 26 months of campaigning. Add on another eight months until the actual election, and you can see that if our last federal election was indeed endless to many, the American election process could justifiably be called an infinity loop: the election never stops. It’s like a long-running Broadway play, where the play itself keeps going, but the cast members change every few years.
And then there is the very real possibility that Americans will not get a breather after the election on November 8, because of the refusal (as of press time) of the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, to say that he will accept the results of the election should he lose, which is increasingly looking like the case. By talking of “rigged voting” and claiming (against all evidence) that voter fraud is rampant, and specifically targeted at the Republicans, Trump is setting the stage for a very nasty election aftermath that could go on indefinitely.
So believe me when I say that no matter how long our election campaigns seem, they are as nothing compared with American elections. Our next federal election is in October 2019, and the campaign will start a few weeks earlier. The next American federal election is in 2020; and the campaign for that starts on November 9, 2016.