Last night the 2011 award season officially concluded with the airing of the always-anticipated Oscars. I think we all know what that means; it is time for the 2012 potential nominees to start running.
Last week in the Los Angeles Times, there was a remarkable article which explained that would-be Oscar nominees, and eventual nominees, are so busy campaigning to win the big award that they have virtually no time to do the work they were nominated for doing. Gifted actors, directors and cinematographers pause for months out of the year to run for an Oscar.
As I read the article, I had to ask, is this any different from what happens with our elected officials? Too often the electoral campaign season officially kicks off the morning after the election. Think I'm kidding? Some officials start raising money for the next race even before their inauguration to their last gig.
In Hollywood, a campaign cycle that eats up artists' time means we miss out on the potential of seeing more and better movies, television shows and plays. In city halls, state capitols, and D.C., a campaign cycle that spans the entire period of an elected official's term means we miss out on having officials do what we asked them to do, represent us. Instead, in some cases, what we're left with is a group of fundraisers who spend some time each day governing.
So what can we do to change this? How can we get representatives who spend some of their time fundraising, as opposed to fundraisers who spend some of their time representing us?
Well, let's see what Hollywood says. Apparently one reason that Oscar nominees are now campaigning for nearly half the year is that there are many awards shows throughout the year. Some contend that a shorter "award season" would alleviate the length of the campaign cycle.
In politics, that would mean lengthening electoral terms, so that elections are fewer and further between. This is a proposal that is unlikely to get off the ground. Members of the electorate are increasingly weary of their elected officials, and it seems doubtful that they'd be willing to give their representatives job security for longer periods of time.
Others in Hollywood suggest moving the Oscars up by one month, seemingly making all of the award shows closer together. I suppose the political version of that would be consolidating elections. Angelinos are about to vote again on March 8, but too few know that. Consolidation seems to make a great deal of sense. It could increase interest and hence voter turnout. It could, however, also mean a terribly long ballot.
Yet another suggestion coming out of Hollywood is to make the campaign season shorter and more efficient by allowing internet voting. While this seems an inevitable reality at some point down the road, in Hollywood, as in politics, there are fears concerning security and voter fraud.
Another suggestion, one not originating in Hollywood, is to prohibit campaign fundraising during the first half of an official's term. As I discuss in an upcoming, lengthy law review article, this proposal would face legal obstacles under the First Amendment, as money given and spent during campaigns is seen as speech.
I think we should open this one up to suggestions. Members of the academy/electorate, what do you think?
Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday at noon. She is the Director of Political Reform at the Center for Governmental studies and an Adjunct Professor at Loyola Law School.
The photo on this post is by Flickr user Dave_B_. It was used under a Creative Commons License.