Forty-some days out and honestly this has to be the strangest presidential election in a lifetime.
The first election I remember, Richard Nixon was running for his first term. I dragged my mother to a little rally in Charlotte, N.C. so we could see him in the flesh. Teenage girls dressed like cheerleaders in red, white, and blue waved pom-poms before and after his speech. There were probably 75 people there.
Yet even that little rally seems more peppy than what we've got now. Remember Sarah Palin's crowds? All those people standing in line saying we love you Sarah? There were women who actually cried.
Four years ago I knocked on so many doors for Barack Obama that I pretty much got to know my whole town, street by street. Once a national television crew came along and asked questions.
Oh, those heady days. Now it feels weirdly somber. Sure, there are crowds -- we see them on the nightly news -- but there's just no comparison.
I'm saying it's odd.
Yet after years of paying close attention to elections I've come to the conclusion that, contrary to evidence that suggests otherwise, we are a reasonable country. We -- that is, the "American People" pundits and politicians always nauseatingly point to -- actually do have the smarts to choose the right candidate. There's something in us, some wisdom and sensibility, that we call forth when it counts. We don't lose our minds and elect a candidate who's shaky on his feet.
Which leads me, of course, to Mitt Romney. Sometimes, when he's caught on camera in an off-script moment, he almost hyperventilates when he offers his opinion. "And -- and -- and... " It's an odd thing you pick up on, like when you confront a kid who's just pocketed a fistful of candy. This is not to say Romney's guilty, just that he often seems as if he's been caught.
We used to talk about "preparedness" where a candidate was concerned, or at least that's what I recall. "Mr. Nixon, what makes you prepared to assume the office of the presidency?" Say what you will about Nixon, he'd done his homework.
So we ask Romney the same question now. What makes you prepared, governor?
I think the key to the odd feel of this election might lie in that basic question. Mitt Romney was a governor, for goodness sake. But to hear him on the trail, being governor of Massachusetts is such a blip in his resume that he doesn't talk about it. To him, being governor is the same to him as the part-time job many of us had when we were kids. We did the work, got the paycheck, and left with a reference. Period.
Maybe that's just as well with Mitt Romney. The way he sounds now, so silly when he talks (like when he wonders why planes don't have windows, or when he says a person suffering a heart attack will be just fine without insurance) it's hard to imagine him being a governor. How on earth did he pull that off?
Honestly, it feels like somebody made it up.
But it's on the record, and there are people in Massachusetts who remember those Mitt Romney days. Apparently he actually went to work, and he had to deal with actual people and actual problems.
Any other candidate would call that "preparation for higher office," but not Romney. What he'd rather us know is that after he was a governor, he was a "businessman." Never mind that being a businessman meant buying companies and then forcing them into debt.
Like I said, it's an odd election. We, the American people, are all scratching our heads, but we're wiser than we get credit for.
Thus the lack of yard signs, the quiet on the street. We get it: something just doesn't jibe.