Should it take this long to choose a president?

As you will have heard if you pay any attention to the national news, there were developments yesterday in the American presidential race, after a primary in Indiana. On the Republican side, Donald Trump defeated Senator Ted Cruz, who then dropped out—or, as at least one news report put it, “suspended his campaign.” In the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton.

The maneuvering, announcing, and campaigning in the presidential contest began more than a year ago; Cruz, for instance, launched his bid in March 2015. By now, it’s just about perfectly clear who the two major-party nominees are going to be, yet the party conventions are a few months away, and the election itself is an entire half-year distant. Is it possible that voter apathy, which is usually a factor in American national elections, arises in part from this long, drawn-out process? The British system is different in a number of ways, among which is the fact that a general election is over and done with in a matter of months—or, depending on how you look at it, mere weeks. That may make no difference to voter participation, but from where I sit, a short campaign has a large appeal. It limits the period of semi-paralysis that afflicts elected representatives facing re-election, it asks less in terms of voter attention, and it costs less for the parties and candidates. Incidentally, the current American system also features an oddly long spell between the election and the swearing in of new officeholders. I see lots of room for reform in our process. Is all this just grass-is-greener thinking on my part?

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