Halloween is approaching, and that can mean only one thing: Christmas is almost here. OK, maybe that’s not what you were thinking, but that seems to be a retailer’s mentality. They say the Christmas season comes earlier every year, and it seems to be true. Walmart’s Christmas decorations are already displayed. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond two weeks ago (don’t judge me), and it already had a Santa section decked in red and green.
Retailers know that this is their chance to make bank, so they prepare for it in advance with decorations and seemingly constant streams of “Jingle Bell Rock.” The more time they can spend in Christmas mode, the better. Christmas gets a full two months out of the year dedicated to its celebration. Every year, we complain about the hyper-commercialization of Christmas, yet we keep buying into the holiday sales and Black Friday hype and Christmas-themed radio stations.
There’s another holiday of sorts that we treat the same way, and it falls on the first Tuesday of November every four years. It is, of course, Election Day. If one can say that the Christmas season is overlong and all about marketing, the same is even truer for elections. The Republican candidates were announcing their candidacies as early as April and May, a full year and a half before the actual election, and they’ve been receiving consistent media coverage ever since. And this is just for the primaries. We haven’t even reached the “only a year away” mark, and there have already been three or four televised debates among the potential candidates. The campaigns have even gone on long enough that candidates are already dropping out.
Perhaps worst of all, the constant campaigning is being taken seriously by the public. Rather than complaining about the commercialism, we’d rather complain about Mitt Romney’s health care plan or Rick Perry’s debate performance. I understand that we’d like to get to know the candidates in advance, but do we really need a full eighteen months of polling and news-watching before we feel comfortable voting? We’ve already formed our opinions about every horse in the race, and what could we possibly learn about any Republican in the next months that will change our minds?
Just as retailers enable Christmas fever with early decorating and “15 percent off” sales, the states enable election fever with early primaries. Florida famously voted its primary forward in the schedule this year, and there’s no incentive for a state to pull its primary back. The primaries attract attention to the state and its issues in the same vein as “Happy Holidays” banners.
Christmas and Election Day come too early because they are both suffering from the same problem: They’re increasingly focused on money. Businesses rely on the holiday season and Black Friday for a boost of income and try to squeeze as much as they can out of the season, hence the massive amounts of advertising, just as presidential hopefuls can spend up to three-quarters of their campaign budgets in the first handful of state primaries. As much as we’d like to think that we’re immune to the persuasive powers of advertising, business owners and elected representatives alike know that we respond to big-budget campaigns.
Most of us can agree that commercializing and extending these seasons makes them less special and takes away the magic (if elections were magical to begin with, that is), and we all agree that society would be better off if we kept our holidays compressed. I don’t blame the politicians or retailers, though. They’re just responding to demand from the voters and consumers, who seem unable to wait. Perhaps the increasingly lengthy Christmas and primary seasons are indicative of a broader social trend of impatience or gluttony. We simply like too much of a good thing, even if we spoil the good thing by smothering it.