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What if We Got What We Paid for in Elections?

Updated on August 21, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

No political advertising

What if instead of a presidential candidate spending millions on advertising to prove he or she wants to be elected, we just made them say where they stand on the issues? What if all a candidate was allowed to do to promote her or his campaign was to sit for media interviews? How different would the outcome be? How much of a difference would it make in the way our government actually governs?

I've had the opportunity to experience a presidential campaign exactly this way. My family was living overseas, and the only television programming we got was through the Armed Services Network, which is provided by the military and shows no commercial advertising. So while America was being inundated with direct mail, auto-telephone calls, and political ads on TV, billboards, in magazines and newspapers, the only information I received on those running was via the morning and evening network and cable news programs, Oprah, 60 minutes, 20/20 and the Sunday morning news forums, for which the candidates paid nothing.

When I returned to the states just before the election, I realized I knew just as much about those who had thrown their hats in the ring as anybody else of average intelligence and attention span. And I had been spared a great deal of the hocus-pocus churned out by each camp's spin doctors.

I'm sure as a direct result of this limited exposure, I cast my vote based on my own evaluation of the candidate's stand (or lack thereof) on the issues and not as a result of the questionable behavior political wannabes are capable of when it comes to campaign advertising. With the never-ending string of elected officials who get caught in unethical activities, I think it is time for the public to ask if we shouldn't put more restrictions on the cost of political campaigns and consequently, dry up the source of those exorbitant funds and politicians' obligation to those who provide them.

If we must allow political advertising, here are some suggestions:

Limit television advertising to the talking head of the candidate. Spare us any more footage of the other guy in a loop of highly edited soundbites or video with a voice over saying things the candidate would never say him/herself. If you want to get elected, sit in front of the camera and speak for yourself. It's not enough to say you approve the message that follows. Deliver the message yourself.

Print advertising should be no more than a signed letter from the person seeking office to the person on the street. No more hiding behind attention grabbing visuals and Madison Avenue hype.

And we might think about setting a date before which no advertising may be published or broadcast. Countries in Europe call for an election, and it's a done deal in a matter of weeks. The way we conduct elections in this country, if you don't get in our face years in advance, you don't stand a chance. These are not the days of the Pony Express or carrier pigeons. It is possible to be known to the average citizen in a matter of weeks just by hitting the talk show circuit. From what I've seen, those shows are only too willing to serve as a forum for any thing political.

Finally, and most importantly, if we limit the onslaught of campaigning, maybe, possibly, we can only hope our elected officials might have some time left over actually to do what they are elected to do: govern. And govern free of obligation to those who paid their way into office.

Imagine that.


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      DzyMsLizzy: I would buy a ticket to watch that exchange and wait to hear the politican's answer!

      I like the idea of having a spending ceiling. The amount of the annual salary for any job being sought is a great standard for any election.

      Thanks for adding to this hub!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I agree. I have my own ideas about what would make things better for all. I should write a Hub about that. I know my husband claims there should be a limit on campaign spending--i.e. you are not allowed to spend more on campaigning than the amount of a single year's salary for the office being sought.

      That's just for starters...and if I were to meet a politician at a town hall, ask a direct question, and then heard him/her bad-mouthing the opposition, I would say, "I don't give a rat's patoot about your opinion of your opponent. That tells me NOTHING about where YOU stand on this issue! Now answer my question without irrelevant statements!"

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      handymanbill: It certainly would. What do you think are the chances of seeing anything change?

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Great ideas and it would be nice to see.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for sharing!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Kathleen - This was an important and necessary Hub when you first wrote it and it is even more relevant now than then. The money spent on elections, and by specual interest groups, when there are so many needs all around us is inexcusable and just short of criminal.

      The system is broken and we need to insist and agitate and shame the politicians in DC ( after all, we elect them and pay them, they work for us) until they repair the dysfunctional parts of the system. Thank you for a great Hub. SHARING

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      mljdgulley354, Anil and Honey and oldandwise (love this handle!): Thanks for searching out one of my earliest hubs! Welcome to my small corner of the HP world. Glad for your input!

    • profile image

      oldandwise 6 years ago

      Great hub, I agree totally. With so many people in need these days, the money spent on ads, could be helping Americans in need. voted up!

    • Anil and Honey profile image

      Anil 6 years ago from Kerala

      Good and timely. This is the problem of all country especially in India.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      I agree. It is really disgusting to read in the media about how many millions of dollars are contributed and being spent on campaigning.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent Hub about a Great Alternative. This reasonable, common-sense, effective, and inexpensive approach has been mentioned before. It was a terrific suggestion then and it still is now.

      We should all insist that our governing officials (remember they are supposed to represent us) change the presidential campaign system. It should be changed. It can be changed