So now we know why Hillary Clinton has been coughing. After weeks of rumors and conspiracy theories, Clinton’s team was forced to come clean about her health this week when the Democratic presidential nominee appeared to collapse at a Sept. 11 memorial service. (See Main Stories.) Her aides revealed that she’d been diagnosed with pneumonia a few days earlier, a diagnosis they initially hid from the public, seemingly out of fear it might make the 68-year-old candidate seem weak. But it should be no surprise that candidates fall ill on the campaign trail, because running for president is an exercise in exhaustion. For more than a year, candidates endlessly race back and forth across the country: On the busiest day of his 2012 campaign, President Obama covered 5,300 miles, making appearances in Iowa, Colorado, California, and Nevada. And everywhere the nominees go, there are germs. “Candidates spend all day shaking thousands of hands on rope lines, then flying in petri-dish planes full of recycled air,” said Dave Wade, a senior strategist on John Kerry’s 2004 campaign. “They’re up all night and rise at the crack of dawn. They get sick.”
Democracy doesn’t have to be so utterly fatiguing. In the U.K., national election campaigns last a mere five weeks. In Canada, they go on for about 10. In Australia, six. Of course, the U.S. is a more powerful, populous nation than any of those countries. But is there any reason that the electoral season couldn’t be compressed? A six-month campaign would surely give the electorate plenty of time to size up the candidates, and for the candidates to set out their platform and qualifications. For voters who are sick and tired of watching would-be presidents and their surrogates repeat the same sound bites for 12-plus months, and for nominees who are just plain sick and tired, a shorter election could be just what the doctor ordered.