If you feel like campaign season is way too long, you’re not wrong. Consider this: Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton declared his candidacy for the presidency on Oct. 3, 1991. “His declaration today follows a month when the Democratic field suddenly came to life,” the New York Times reported. That means that at this point in the 1992 election cycle, the eventual winner had just started his campaign. His main rival for the Democratic nomination, California Gov. Jerry Brown, wouldn’t jump into the race until a few weeks after that. The first televised debate wouldn’t be held until Dec. 15.
By contrast, in this election, front-runners Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been in since February. Joe Biden already felt like a latecomer when he declared in April—six months earlier in the cycle than Clinton. There have already been three rounds of debates, and candidates are already being called on to drop out. We’ve all aged 17 years.
This isn’t normal by historical standards. It used to be possible to have a primary and a general election all in one year. (John F. Kennedy didn’t announce until Jan. 2, 1960, for example.) As recently as the 2000 election, George W. Bush declared on June 12, 1999, and John McCain waited until that September, which feels pretty leisurely compared to today.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Canada only really started its election cycle last month, and it’s about to end. Israel has had two national elections in the time that Elizabeth Warren has been a declared candidate, and could very possibly have a third one before the convention. (OK, maybe not the most encouraging example.) In Japan, the law only allows candidates to officially campaign for 12 days.
That probably goes too far. But surely, one year should be enough time to decide between these people.
Support our 2020 coverage
Slate is covering the election issues that matter to you. Support our work with a Slate Plus membership. You’ll also get a suite of great benefits.Join Slate Plus