As you probably know, the 2008 Presidential Election cycle has kicked into full gear, nearly two years before the next President will be sworn in. You’re already paying attention to how much Giuliani has opened up his lead over McCain; wondering if Rommey can make nice with the Christian Conservatives; waiting for Obama’s charisma bubble to burst; taking odds on when Bill Clinton might embarass his wife; mourning the death of the “Vilsack / Aflac” running joke on The Daily Show.
What you might not know is how much everybody else is paying attention to it, as well. On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos reported on an ABC poll that said that nearly two-thirds of the nation is already paying attention to the race.
That’s a pretty amazing number, all things considered, and while the cynic in me might just mark it down to Bush fatigue: that number is pretty close to his disapproval ratings and perhaps by paying attention to the next President, we can pretend that he still isn’t in office. But I think it’s something else.
I think that we, as a country, have now conflated news and entertainment so much, we are looking at the 2008 Presidential Campaign as the biggest and best Reality TV show ever. I don’t think this is such a bad thing, either. And that’s coming from someone who hates Reality TV.
For one thing, we get pretty invested in our Reality TV shows: Tim Goodman didn’t start calling American Idol the “Death Star” of TV programming because it was something that people ignored. On the contrary, love it or loathe it, Idol is the single biggest thing we have going in our post-millennial pop-culture, and you can’t really ignore it.
I say that if we can have Idol-level national conversation about our next election — where the results will actually affect people’s lives — that’s a good thing. This is the first time in most of our lifetimes where there is a totally wide-open race in both major parties, with no absolute slam-dunk candidate and front-loaded primaries, so it’s good that people pay attention to what’s going on now, because we’re going to be making our choices sooner than usual.