A presidential campaign with no drama

Over at the television networks, the ratings tell the tale. One network news executive says they’re seeing viewers flee politics. There was a flash of interest around the time of the Republican debates but little since. When politics come up, the ratings show a real dip in viewership — presumably a rush to the bathroom or the kitchen. (Could this be a cause of the obesity epidemic?) …

But other factors are at work this year. First and foremost is the paucity of really gripping issues. There is only one, the economy, and it will do what it wants. If it improves, Barack Obama will win; if it worsens, Mitt Romney will win. Just to add to the dreariness, the economy seems to reflect the candidates’ personalities. It gets a little bit better and then a little bit worse and then maybe doesn’t move at all. Housing goes up and then down and then nowhere. Things are better than they once were but worse than they used to be. The recession has receded, but the promised boom has gone bust. This is the nowhere economy — neither boom nor bust nor much good to anyone. …

So this political season has become like sports — the domain of the fan. You can follow it on its dedicated cable channels — Fox News, MSNBC, etc. — which have become versions of fan radio. Rutgers University historian David Greenberg noted in a New Republic essay earlier this year the synergy between sports fandom and political fandom in which all opinions are valid and, of course, evanescent. Just as no one knows the long-term consequence of a wild pitch and whether it is worth discussing, no one knows the meaning of a single campaign gaffe. Everything’s important for 24 hours.