Monday, January 07, 2008

One More Day

At the end of tomorrow, New Hampshire will no longer matter to anyone except the people who live here.

Four years from now there will be a little circus. In eight years there will be a big one. Other than that we can be our weird, cantankerous selves without cameras or microphones in front of us or endless phone calls from friendly strangers.

National attention brings interesting discussions conveniently to us. As media evolve, elections change to exploit them. Much is being made of the blogosphere and cyberspace as the new frontier in information distribution. But where did I hear this? On the radio, which was on in the next room.

On "The Simpsons" last night, Nelson the taunting bully told a character representing the Washington Post "Ha ha! Your medium is dying!" The school principal chided him for telling the truth at the expense of being nice. Cute. Glib. But am I going to take my expensive laptop on a subway, boot it up and browse electronic media, even with a strong wireless signal everywhere I go? I think not. I've read newspapers I bought and newspapers I found. I've read pieces of newspaper left on bus seats or park benches.

Supporting any medium with ad revenues is one of the greatest long-running con games ever devised. Raise your hand if you regularly buy anything based on an advertisement you saw in any medium. Ha ha! I can't see you. I'm sitting in my living room and I won't tell you what I'm wearing. But I bet many people do exactly as I do: look past the ads to see what really interests you. In fact, I'm automatically suspicious of anything I see or hear in an ad. Once I know more about a product category, I usually discover that the heavily advertised product is never the best one. Either that or the quality is so uniform that it doesn't really matter.

Political ads are no exception. That makes things harder. We have to judge candidates on their actual merits, by whatever means we manage to discern them. I work very hard to make sure that I don't reject a candidate based on something petty, like Obama's too-polished oratory and the swooning belief of his followers, or Hillary's excessive professionalism. On the Republican side, what I saw in their debate a couple of nights ago did not change my overall opinion that their party needs to take a break from trying to run the country for a while. But within that overall distaste I heard things I could agree with from McCain, Ron Paul and even a word or two from Giuliani. Unfortunately for their whole slate, what I liked were mostly the good zingers aimed at Mitt Romney.

As the campaigns whip themselves to a final frenzy, how many of us make our final selection in spite of the candidate's presentation, not because of it? I know I try to look behind the signs and balloons and cheering chanters to select someone who can analyze and adapt to our changing world while keeping the constants of the human condition in mind. Technology changes. Intellectual concepts evolve. People are still people.

I haven't quite gotten out the dart board yet.

I told a persistent Obama staffer on the phone, "I'll probably vote the way I Christmas shop." She knew exactly what I meant. See you tomorrow.

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