Whether you were on the #TrumpTrain and supported #HillaryforPrison or whether you were with her all along, wanted to make #NeverTrump a reality and to elect #HillaryClinton as the first female President, we can all agree on one thing on the “morning after” the election: Our long national nightmare is finally over! With last week’s vote, we have witnessed both perhaps the greatest election upset in U.S. history—certainly the most noteworthy since the headline read “Dewey Defeats Truman”—and the finale to the greatest (or worst) reality show ever!
Surely now and forever, whatever rules that were in place for how Presidential campaigns should be conducted have been upended. So perhaps now it is time to look at what this election has truly cost us—and how we should perhaps look to perhaps “blow up” the rules of politics in the future after the disruption that has certainly been delivered in this last week’s election results.
Senator Everett Dirksen once famously observed that when it comes to Washington: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!” While the final toteboard will take some time to catch-up, it is safe to say that this is the most expensive election ever—not only at the Presidential level, but across all federal elections. According to the latest estimates from the Center for Responsive Politics, total spending on the Presidential election will top $2.6 billion. Combine that big number with the almost $4.3 billion spent on Congressional races and we are looking at the first $7 billion dollar election!
What this observer can safely say is that there has indeed been a larger cost—for all of us—with this election, and that comes at a cost that is hard to peg, but it is, as our President-elect would say, “huuuuuuge!” Consider—both for those in the winning red camp and those on the losing blue side—what has been the “larger costs” of this election? From my perspective as a management consultant, I do believe that this election has taken a large psychological and physical toll on millions and millions of Americans. I believe that chronic election fatigue is a very real phenomenon (even if it won’t be found in the latest DSM), and now, we will be looking a,t yes, post-election stress as well. Relationships, friendships, and even familial ties have been strained over this most contentious of elections.
What to do? This analyst strongly believes that the time has come to radically reshape the way that we choose a president! The momentum for change is there now—and it likely won’t really diminish anytime soon. In fact, depending on how things play out after today, more and more leaders—across not just the political spectrum but from the corporate world as well—will find Americans ready to participate in a national discussion of how we, as a country, can make the “process” work better.
This is a topic that deserves to be at the top of the news cycle—and not just the focus of academic conferences, think tanks, etc.—for some time. Somehow, we need not just a bipartisan—but American—dialogue on how we can look at establishing some baseline rules that can make our Presidential selection process work “better, faster, and cheaper”—and much better for all of us. In doing so, we may even need to “tinker” with the Constitution just a bit (remember, there is nary a word in that document regarding political parties, presidential primaries, conventions, nominating processes, etc.) with an amendment or two that would look: to make the election season shorter, to clarify the role of political parties, to lessen the money involved (money that could go to far better causes than political advertising), and finally, to perhaps seriously look at the role of what might be labeled as the famous “Election Industrial Complex” (the consulting firms, polling companies, ad agencies, national and even local media, etc.). In doing so, we may indeed create if not a “more perfect union,” a better way to select and elect a President that will not seem like a cross between the Civil War, armageddon, and yes, maybe even “The Apprentice.”
Think that the system is just “the system” and it can’t be changed? Think that it would be unwise to bring such a “hot topic” to the fore? Well, remember what Thomas Jefferson advised his fellow Americans over two centuries ago: “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” We should all have the collective courage to try to make the political process work better—and not just settle for “the way things are”—and produce more tears, arguments, high blood pressure, and disenchantment the next time, and the next time, and the next time.