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The American presidential campaign still has nine months to go, about the length of a normal human pregnancy. Of course, by the time it’s over in November it will have gone on for over two years, slightly longer than the length of a normal elephant pregnancy. Now I know how mama elephants feel—and it’s not good. It’s like 300 million people having morning, noon, and night sickness, and that’s not a pretty sight.
Of course I’ve got to admit that I admire the remaining candidates, not so much for what they are saying but for their ability to get up every day and say it again and again and again without stumbling, foaming at the mouth, or falling asleep on their feet. Even what they wear is up for debate and has Hillary (Clinton) gained a few pounds?
The country worries about Barack OBama’s daughters. They’re able to see Daddy on TV but his absence must be hard on children so young. Obama’s wife Michelle, when she was a guest on the Larry King Show assured viewers that her husband has been home for every significant event and hadn’t missed a birthday, school performance or a parent / teacher conference.
If they are hard to take (they are), the real horrors of this endless political gestation have been the pundits, political spinners, the talking heads, and other experts who are no doubt as bored and baffled as the rest of us (well, they should be) who daily, even hourly, tell us or blog at us about the meaning of it all.
It used to be that they beat us over the head with polling figures, making a big whoop out of a four percentage point lead, even though the margin of error is larger. Those, sorry to say, were the good old days. Now the pundits see the future in the tea leaves of fund-raising differences or the number of super delegates (if you don’t know about them, you don’t want to know) or endorsements by famous has-beens whom no one remembers. If those measure don’t reveal enough, there is always some information about the relative strength of one candidate or another to be interpreted according to the price of a gallon of gasoline, the fluctuations of the Dow, or the consumption of Big Macs (“It’s the cholesterol, stupid”).
Maybe this is why Paris suddenly seems so much more charming, so much more sane than Washington or anywhere else in the States. It’s not just the wine, the Louvre, and the short work week. It’s the politics. Last year, when Sarko and Ségo were competing for the presidency of the Republic, no one got morning sickness: there wasn’t enough time. For six weeks before the first round, both were permitted limited advertising. No one watching TV or listening to the radio in France had to watch back-to-back-to-front and wall-to-wall-to-floor-to ceiling political commercials.
And the ads the candidates ran did not insult the intelligence of a three-year-old. Two weeks later, after the second round of voting, it was all over. Sarko won. And that was the end of it. No recounts, no endless interpretations of his victory (“He got more votes” may be too subtle an explanation for American commentators, but it made sense to the French), and no endless waiting for an inauguration requiring three months of planning, millions of dollars, and the creation of traffic hell in Washington. A week later, Sarko was in the Élysée, Ségo announced she and François Hollande had had it, and no one felt post-partum depression, except maybe François, but he kept it to himself and his new girlfriend.
People who know about these things tell me that we just can’t do it the way the French do it… something about Constitutional guarantees of free speech. Free speech costs millions of dollars, but apparently it’s free. We also can’t do this, my knowing friends tell me, because it would not give the unknowns a chance against the famous candidates with their star power. Well, right, that’s why Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich won the Republican and Democratic nominations, respectively. Oh, they didn’t? Amazingly, many of my French friends have a better understanding of the American election process than people I’ve met from the US.
But I wonder. We can’t do anything about stopping the candidates from campaigning. However, what if the experts refused to pay attention to the candidates until—oh, I don’t know—about a month before the nominating conventions. I know that would require them (the commentators, not the candidates) to come up with something to say and write on their own. That would be hard for them. But they could take a page from the French.
Instead of dragging themselves in to their cubicles every morning, what if they stopped in for a café au lait or un coup de rouge and spent the day arguing with one another about issues they really cared about and that the public would be glad to read about the next morning in the paper?
Like, for example, how many angels actually can dance on the head of a pin.
© Paris New Media, LLC