The national political pundits, the New Hampshire editorialists, and the existing presidential campaigns are all atwitter about tonight's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. It's the first post-Labor Day debate! It's in New Hampshire! It's a big, big deal!!!
Gimme a break.
The entire campaign so far has been absurd. Nonsense. Worthless. So premature as to be almost an affront to our senses. Most ordinary people want a break from politics. They don't want to talk about presidential campaigns a year-and-a-half, or even 14 months, before the election.
While the political class is enjoying its bizarre addiction to early debates -- think of the addiction as the political equivalent of soft-core porn -- here's what most Americans are thinking about today:
The first full week of school for many children. And all that comes with it: Tryouts for fall sports teams. Early impressions of teachers. Hurt feelings as new cliques form. Working out glitches in the carpooling plan. And so on.
The first week of the NFL season. Fantasy football drafts or last-minute pre-season trades. (Hey, did you see that my New Orleans Saints are opening tomorrow night against the defending champion Colts led by New Orleans native Peyton Manning? Gotta love it, dude!) The opening weekend for most college football teams. The home-stretch of baseball's pennant races. The U.S. Open in tennis, especially the fates of Americans Venus and Serena Williams and Andy Roddick. In golf, Phil Mickelson actually holding off Tiger Woods head-to-head last week.
The volatile stock market and the housing slump. Are they just blips, or do families really need to worry? Are they part of a business cycle, or something unique and scary? Oh, and will gasoline prices drop now that summer vacation season is over? Should I start my early Christmas shopping for my children now, or wait to see how things shake out?
Things undone this summer. So many people make so many summer plans that fall by the wayside, and Labor Day brings the realization that some of those plans never reached fruition. Is there a way in the remaining weekends in September to squeeze in one last bit of summer-like fun before the days get too short or the temperature too cool? Is there a way to finish those home-improvement projects?
The fall movie season. Lots of people still look to Hollywood with eager anticipation. (Hollywood usually disappoints, but that's another story.) This fall will feature new movies starring the likes of Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Cate Blanchett, and Laura Linney. Movie versions of best-selling books, including Atonement, Love in the Time of Cholera, and even the Eight Century epic Beowulf, are coming to the screen.
Jobs. How safe are they? What kind of year-end bonus can I plan on, if any? What do I need to do in the year's final quarter to get a good year-end bonus? How much overtime should I try to work to get a little extra Christmas money, or to save up for the car I want to buy next year? And will I be able to sock away anything for my child's future education?
Church. Autumn is when many families or individuals who have let their faith lapse during the summer, or at least let their communal expression of faith lapse, recommit themselves after Labor Day to their churches or to the outreach programs their churches sponsor.
Love. Loneliness. Fun. Health. The health of friends or family members. Seasonal depression as the days shorten. Seasonal elation as the leaves begin brilliantly to change their hues. And, as the good Lord knows, so many other topics, concerns, projects and dreams that entire books could be written about them. Topics and concerns that not only fail to include politics but that sometimes consciously exclude politics, by deliberate design.
So, to the politicians and the blathering pundits, the message should be clear. With apologies for bluntness, the message is this: Shut up already We'll pay attention after the New Year, but until then, please go away.
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