Stealth Election 

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There's something spooky going on this time around. Something missing.

Travelling in the U.S. in the month before a presidential election isn't exactly a personal tradition but it is one of my favourite ways of spending October every four years. Elections in Canada are such tepid, now-you-see-'em, now-you-don't affairs that seem to come around on the PM's whim and last less time than a good bout of indigestion. By contrast, elections in the U.S. are more like watching two cats have sex — an interminable amount of very noisy foreplay eventually consummated in a blur of activity, flying fur and blood.

I'll be back in Canada when the blood starts flowing but right now, at least in the western part of the country, there is hardly a trace of noisy foreplay. This time around we seem to have a stealth election.

Travelling through the eastern part of Washington, there was no trace of an impending election. People are going about the business of getting ready for winter, laying in wood, harvesting fruit and hay, hunting meat for their freezers. Same in Idaho. Same in Wyoming.

The first presidential candidate signs I saw were in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Depressingly, they were Romney signs. So much for my illusion that ski towns tend to attract more liberal people. The first sign of support for Obama came outside Denver, the bluish heart of a pinkish state.

What's a guy to think?

This election is being fought on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and TV. It's aimed at eyes increasingly glued to screens of one sort or another. It's being fought to fire up the decided voters and get them to actually vote.

The current polls look like a dead heat: 47 per cent to 47 per cent with only six per cent unwilling to commit, perhaps hoping for an alien intervention to deliver another choice. The edge incumbent Obama had vanished after last Wednesday's first presidential debate, itself an anomaly in an anomalous election.

If you didn't watch — and really, who could blame you for ignoring it even in the absence of hockey — the debate was, well, bizarre. I tuned in expecting to see Barack Obama and Mitt (really, Mitt?) Romney dodge and weave, obfuscate and generally avoid saying anything of substance.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a debate between an empty chair, the ghost of Barack Obama and some guy no one had seen in decades running for the Republican Party. My first inclination was to smack the side of the TV in hopes of getting a clearer picture. But it was a flat screen and didn't offer much of side to smack and I didn't imagine the folks who ran the motel in Republic, Washington, would appreciate me abusing the electronics. So I sat in wonder.

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