Friday, April 11, 2008

Election fatigue: a long winter of political cabin fever

I have a serious case of election fatigue, and I'm not the only one. Just Google it. From Bitch Magazine to Jack Cafferty, folks are ready for this thing to be over.

The Democratic primary season has gone on too long, just like the winter. This season's election fatigue feels like a bad case of cabin fever up north. It may be spring -- daffodils and crocuses are popping up in Ann Arbor -- but yesterday there was a winter storm warning in the Upper Peninsula (even blizzard warnings in Minnesota). Consider this: Spring weather will reach the U.P. long before a the Dems have a presidential candidate.

We've been trapped in the narrative of delegate counts, race vs. gender, pastors gone wild, Hillary's tall tales from Bosnia and more for so long, we are numb. How many more campaign ads must we deconstruct? Still we persevere, knowing that this, like the snowy season, shall pass.

As early as January, the fatigue had begun to set in for some. But the Michigan primary kept interest alive among state voters, political professionals and campaign junkies. Today, who really cares about the principles behind the allotting of Michigan's Democratic delegates? Who wants to keep watching the Michigan Democratic Party display its ineptitude, ineffectiveness and division? It would be more fulfilling to de-thatch the lawn and spread grub pellets.

We want a break from our election companions, the intrepid Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but everywhere we turn there they are -- bowling, eating doughnuts, walking factory floors, saying things they regret later. Our other election companions, the pundits, grow equally tiresome. You know readers are fed up when they go after Maureen Dowd (see: "Hey Maureen Dowd, Please Shut Up"), one of the more articulate and even-handed columnists of the day.
The 24/7 information environment and a news cycle disconnected from the rising and setting of the sun have distorted our sense of time. Time in the virtual environment of blogs and streaming feeds has the feel of a Las Vegas casino. The virtual realm propagates itself without reference to the natural world of sun and shadow.

We hear that Democrats need to fall in love with their candidate. It's too late for that. The candidates have spinach in their teeth, and we know they snore. The days of easy infatuation are behind us. Familiarity, meet contempt. After months of the Bickersons on parade, many voters will actually be fooled and think that John McCain is a refreshing change.

According to the most recent Rasmussen polls, McCain is the candidate most likely to win Michigan, albeit by a very slim margin. Just enough to game the system, a cynic might say. When the Michigan Legislature was changing the primary date, we frequently heard proponents say, "No candidate can become president without winning Michigan." I don't think this is what the Democrats expected.

So for now, it looks like we'll have at least six more weeks of this Democratic primary campaign. There may not be a groundhog to tell us what to expect, but maybe the good people of Pennsylvania will send a clue on April 22. Never mind the candidates' position statements, will Pennsylvania primary voters see their shadows?