One of the many blessings of living in a reliably Republican state is that every four years we’re spared the constant barrage of political advertising that afflicts those poor souls living in the so-called “swing states.” The commercial advertising that fills the void is the usual irritating noise, but at least none of the spots we’ve been subjected to have been approved by Barack Obama.
Momentous though it is, the presidential election is so barely detectable around here that a determinedly apolitical sort could almost manage to convince himself that it’s not happening at all. Plenty of yard signs shout at anyone who attempts a walk around our neighborhood, but most are for local races that inspire only mild passions. We have a Facebook friend we’re not sure we know who has lately been filling our e-mail with several missives a day extolling the wonder of Obama, but she’s the only one, and her enthusiasm seems a minor annoyance compared to the mass hysteria that swept through the social media last time around. Only the most politically avid of our actually friends and acquaintances even bring up the presidential election, and even those conversations are lately truncated by a lack of something new to say.
A local referendum to fluoridate the water supply seems to be the hottest issue in the city, judging by the proliferation of yard signs and the actual mail filling our actual mail box. There’s an unusually rancorous judicial race underway, with both incumbent and challenger airing nasty accusations during the talk radio schedule. A few other Republicans are also hitting the airwaves with regular advertisements, including the sure bet incumbent congressman who’s been touting his conservative bona fides and doesn’t even mention the sacrificial lamb challenger that not one voter in 100 in this district could even name.
These issues are important, of course, and we’ve given them what we consider the due diligence of a responsible. We’re all in for the incumbent congressman, who truly is a solid conservative and whose undistinguished and wildly liberal opponent is quite deserving of his anonymity. We’re inclined to the challenger in that judicial race, not because we believe her accusations but rather because the worst the incumbent has on her is that she only moved to Kansas five years ago and a poll of local lawyers gives him a higher approval rating; the newcomer thing is ordinarily a problem for us but because she’s a Republican we figure she’s more Kansan that the native, and the approval of local lawyers does not sway us. After some deliberation we’ve decided to vote against fluoridation, not because we believe that it poses a threat to our precious bodily fluids but because some of our fellow citizens clearly do not wish to drink fluoridated water and we require an extraordinarily good reason to force anybody to do something they don’t want to do.
Still, such nonchalance about the presidential race is disquieting. It can be dismissed as a result of the fact that all the campaigning is occurring elsewhere, or the near-certainty of how the state’s few electoral votes will be cast, or even the nervousness that both sides seem to feel, but it can’t be because the election isn’t of the gravest importance. The most comforting explanation is that people have already made up their minds, having given the matter four years of consideration already, and are simply too polite to roil a friendly conversation with serious politics, but we suspect that there’s a widespread apathy out there. Those who wish to divine some happy omen for Obama from this lack of fervor should know that it’s not complacency, not by a long shot, and at best it’s a very grudging acceptance of a desultory status quo and a resignation to a future of decline no matter the outcome of an election.
One can only imagine what this election season must be like in such targeted states as Ohio, and one shudders to do so. Surely there are people there who can look through all the ads and speeches and nakedly partisan press coverage to see the nation’s current sorry state, however, and here in the deep red territory we can only hope they make it to the polls in time.
— Bud Norman