Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's about time

Some people seem to think that April of the year immediately following a mid-term election is a little too early to be worrying about holding presidential debates. Of course, by some people, we mean the majority of the American public. But don't tell that to the media, or any of those interested in holding the highest office in the land (a statement that has taken on a bit of a double-meaning over the last seven years). That's right, folks. Earlier than ever before, it's time to launch the official campaign season, with the Democratic hopefuls meeting tonight in South Carolina for a debate. Not to be left in the dust, the Republican hopefuls are holding their own debate next week.

Apparently April showers bring political flowers. Nevermind that we can practically guarantee that new candidates will announce their intentions after these debates have passed (after all, what better way to gauge your chances than to hear your opponents fight over which one has the better transportation plan). And nevermind that, by the time we even think about the nomination process (which begins in January of next year) half of the existing candidates will most likely have been replaced by other, more likeable, more photogenic candidates. And definitely nevermind about the notion that a few of the candidates just got themselves off of the campaign trail last November.

This is the big one. Or, at least, the first big one.

The candidates themselves are, naturally, downplaying the importance of this debate, but stress that they want to perform well at it. After all, it may be 18 months before half the country decides not to vote for President (except in Florida, where they'll vote not to vote), but the candidates need to keep themselves from uttering embarrassing statements in this first of many televised contests. Nobody wants to hear Dennis Kucinich talk about the time he lost his toe chopping firewood for his palatial lake home. Very few are interested in hearing John McCain launch into another song. And only a small portion of the public are concerned about how Hillary Clinton ties her beliefs as an animal lover into her desire to share breakfast with VPCheney.

We need substance. We need something to give us hope that a brighter day is ahead of us. We need political buzzwords.

And this is where this early debate will prosper. We will be met with buzzwords (and buzzphrases) that we will be able to attach to the candidates, and force them to carry long after the election is over next November. After all, who can forget the classic jab at John Kerry, calling him a "flip-flopper"? Or how about when John Kennedy referred to Richard Nixon as, "old pasty faced-opponent guy"? And the ultimate Ronald Reagan line, later repeated by opponent Walter Mondale, "Where are my shoes?".

This is what we have been waiting for. Tomorrow will bring with it, not only the sun, but also entirely new ways to classify the candidates. Not in their own words, but in the words of their opponents. We can just smell the attack ads on the horizon.

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