Into the first turn…

I maintain that the campaign for president begins the day after the election. That is to say those who hope to run for the next cycle must begin positioning themselves in the public mind and raising money. We will see a dramatically shortened cycle for 2004 that my have ill effects for voters. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

The conclusion of the race could come abruptly — conceivably less than a month after the balloting begins next January — thanks to a dramatically compressed primary season that loads more important contests into a shorter time frame.

The paradoxical result may be a prolonged and furiously fought campaign taking place while few voters pay attention — and ending before many of them notice.

I believe the perpetual campaign is a fact of electronically-mediated political life. We may certainly argue about the effects. One of those ill effects may be that many Americans won’t be paying attention this summer and fall when, if speculation holds true, much of the race will be won or lost.

What bothers me more than the lack of attention is what the press’ attempts to gain that attention could cost our civic discourse. Will the press use this time to explore deeply the issues and attempt to come to some understanding about their complexity? Or will the press focus on the drama of sensation, the horse race, and the process? I think the answer is not as simple as this dichotomy just as I think the electorate cannot be categorized as wholly inattentive or apathetic.