Sunday, April 6, 2008

Taking the Week Off

Now that it's Sunday, I can tell you that I decided to take last week off. I didn't miss work, or stop bathing, or anything stupid like that. Instead, I (mostly) swore off the 2008 presidential campaign. I blogged about it, of course, but I generally avoided watching the cable news networks or checking out the more political websites. Old habits die hard, so I didn't exactly go cold turkey, but I came closer than I have in at least a couple of years.

In short, I spent the past week living the life of a typical American.

This wasn't something I planned. I don't want to sound like one of those annoying, self-important yuppies who annually observe "Turn Off Your TV Week" and then brag about it to anyone who will listen. I just got fed up. I detest manufactured political news and that's about all there is out there right now. Desperate for something to talk about, the various anchors and their predictable lineup of talking heads are left to speculate on the earth-shattering importance of some trivial gaffe made by one or another candidate's deputy vice-director for photo ops. Even Keith Olbermann has become increasingly unwatchable as he slowly embraces the troubling anti-Hillary bias of his MSNBC stablemates.

So I just quit. And I'm glad I did. From the outside, the presidential campaign seems so much less urgent. Who cares about Clinton and Obama when March Madness is in full swing and the baseball season awaits? Why follow John McCain's cross-country biography tour (Good call, John! Remind everyone how old you are.) when your cable system has over 200 channels of counter-programming, at least five of which are running one of the Godfather movies? My iPod contains well over 5,000 of my favorite songs, even the worst of which (probably "Chevy Van") brings me more pleasure than any one of Chris Matthews' unhinged diatribes.

And it's not like you can completely tune out the candidates regardless of how hard you try. You flip on the local news during a severe weather watch and there they are. Their names come up constantly in the late night comedy monologues. Even blogs that are decidedly apolitical occasionally make passing reference to some controversy that occurred on the campaign trail. I am vaguely aware, for example, that some hospital in Ohio is denying one of Senator Clinton's stories about how they refused to treat an ailing woman who subsequently died. I'm sure the fanatics over at Daily Kos are having a field day with this. (Just checked. They are.)

I'll probably spend the next few days slowly working back into my regular routine of TV watching and web surfing. I don't want to fall too far behind. But it was nice to be reminded that politics is only a small corner of the world, and that millions of Americans insist on treating it that way. Many of them will start paying attention once the nominees are chosen and the race begins in earnest. But they will not dwell on each meaningless detail of the campaign just because Brit Hume or Lou Dobbs or Tucker Carlson tells them to. (I know Tucker no longer has his own show. Evidently, the public appetite for smugness is finite.)


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