Spectacle above all

Local issues lose sight and sound amid national, character-driven political narrative.

Mike Munzenrider

With just two weeks to go until what is a very important midterm election, I find myself overwhelmed by politics in a national sense and completely disconnected from politics in a local sense.
ItâÄôs a strange place for me to find myself. My 18th birthday was closer to a decade ago than IâÄôd like to admit, and because of that IâÄôve had ample opportunity to vote. IâÄôve always done so, well informed, always bright-eyed and ready to do my part for democracy. IâÄôd never felt a slowing sense of urgency in fulfilling my civic duties, or apathy, until about last week.
Throwing in the towel and simply not voting screams of convenience, but alas, my moral compass, a.k.a. my momâÄôs voice in the back of my mind, wonâÄôt allow me to do it. Buckling down and making myself a fit voter is what I have to do, but why all the apathy in the first place?
Pinpointing the cause of this sudden voting malaise comes down to this: The never-ending election cycle and the pure spectacle that it has become, on a national level, which IâÄôm now somewhat obsessed with, which has also soured me to things on the local front.
Sarah Palin comes to mind as the forever running candidate who is so illustrative of this never-ending campaign idea. Her concerted effort to stay in the middle of the public eye, mere hours after the conclusion of the 2008 election, is the new norm. Running or not, she keeps them and us guessing, âÄòlamestreamâÄô media be damned, as long as they keep showing up.
The Tea Party spectacle has also kept a campaign feeling going strong in the tiny time between election cycles. Love it or not, the group has managed to maintain an us-versus-them mentality in the voting public, never allowing for some apolitical breathing space to develop.
Onward to the actual election of 2010, and weâÄôve been introduced to quite a variety of candidates and characters, all vying for their piece of the pie. We met Richard Blumenthal, Senate candidate from Connecticut, who couldnâÄôt quite differentiate between serving in the military during Vietnam and serving in the military in Vietnam. Staying in New England, thereâÄôs DelawareâÄôs Senatorial candidate Christine OâÄôDonnell, who, well, said this: âÄúOne of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar.âÄù Youtube.com sound bites aside, OâÄôDonnell has been all spectacle, no substance.
As of this writing, thereâÄôs news that at an event for Alaska Senatorial candidate, Joe Miller, his private security roughed up and handcuffed a journalist. While this story is no doubt still developing, my fascination with it points out that the spectacle reigns supreme.
This continuous noise has had many effects on me. I cannot stop reading about it because itâÄôs so fascinating that itâÄôs actually real. At the same time, a fatigue sets in and I take days off, insulating myself from anything that will make me ask, âÄúWho are these people?âÄù
The election cycle here at home has been, well, less than spectacular. I say that not as an informed commentator, but from the standpoint that IâÄôd know if bizarrely real things were going on âÄî Michele Bachmann has been quiet.
Now that I have faced and exorcised the political spectacle, itâÄôs time to ignore OâÄôDonnell and start examining, for instance, where gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner falls on higher education, or why his opponent Tom Emmer hasnâÄôt said much about social issues. In short, IâÄôll be hitting the DailyâÄôs archives hard in the coming days, hoping to shed the show of politics and regain some of its substance.