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Nadworny: Quantity Or Quality?

11/09/10 7:55AM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST)  Now that election season is done, commentator Rich Nadworny needs a break.  And he wonders: In democracy, are we choosing quantity over quality?

(NADWORNY)  I'm sure all of you out there breathed a huge sigh of relief on November 3 when the latest elections were finally over. Whether your team won or lost, this election seemed incredibly long and nasty.

Which got me thinking: Do we really need elections every two years? What would happen if we voted every three years, or every four? Would that make things better? Because it's hard to see a way to make things worse than they are right now, with non-stop campaigning, huge amounts of money flowing in, and voting citizens who, despite going to the polls every two years, feel more disconnected from the political process than ever.

So I'm wondering: Who really benefits by having elections every two years? Maybe in the 1800s, when it took a long time to travel around the state, or from Washington to a home state, it ensured that the voters would at least see their elected officials once in a while. But now that we can fly anywhere quickly, this can't be the reason we have elections so often. So why do we keep doing this?

Having grown up in the Watergate era, I love the phrase from Deep Throat: Follow the money. It usually helps explain most of what happens in this country.

So who gains economically by having so many elections? Well, the media does, for one. Most of the money raised by and for candidates ends up going into expensive TV commercials.

But while the media makes lots and lots of money, I don't think they really have the juice to influence election frequency.

So how about lobbyists? Now, it might seem counterintuitive to blame the lobbyists, since they're usually dispensing money, instead of taking it - but I think this one deserves a closer look. Having elections every two years means that politicians need to spend a lot of time raising money. As we've seen for the past 30 years, a lot of that money comes from the companies lobbyists work for. And there IS a quid pro quo here: the same lobbyists actually end up writing much of the legislation politicians vote on.

Having elections every two years means that much more opportunity for lobbyists and the very large corporations and interest groups they represent to grease the pockets of people in Washington. So, it's hard to believe that we'd change a system when big money is so clearly bet against it.

Still, I don't like to think that anyone I voted for will be starting up again almost immediately, to campaign for re-election. So how about giving us voters a break and having elections every 3 or 4 years instead?

And why does even saying that out loud sound incredibly naïve?

(TAG) For more commentaries by Rich Nadworny, go to VPR-dot-net.
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