It’s August, what entertainment peddlers call “the dead month,” and I’m in no mood to submit every columnist’s go-to piece: the presidential candidate rebuttal. Nobody needs more 700-word fisks of what ex-governor so-and-so said offhand to the reporter from Cedar Falls Shopper. You’re welcome, valued reader!
Presidential politics is a stale affair—particularly this sultry season. Two summers out from the main event and the country seems more interested in annual siestas to the shore than who will be our next commander-in-chief.
Or maybe it’s just me. My family’s escape to the coast is fast approaching and I’ve already cracked open my sip-light-beer-on-the-beach read. (What is it you ask, inquisitive reader? Why it’s R.C. Sherriff’s classic “The Fortnight in September,” which is so far proving to be a wonderful meditation on late-middle-aged motherhood akin to “Mrs. Bridge.” Perfect!)
So I’m checked out, eagerly awaiting the moment I douse my face in the Atlantic’s briny bath. The various presidential campaigns underway are also at sea. The heat wave baking the U.S. is slowing down everyone’s ambition. It’s also challenging the idea that man was ever supposed to live in Texas, let alone run for president from the Lone Star state—I’m talking to you, Will Hurd!
One Twitter wag felt so spent by the summer slog he asked, “If literally everyone running for president was run over by a truck, would that be sad or good”, too warmed and worn to bother with a question mark. Pedantry aside, it’s a good inquiry, even if it was floated the day before Ron DeSantis was in a car accident, probably as he was text-firing half his campaign staff.
Were every presidential candidate, including the Orange Jumpsuit Guy, his Florida epigone, the walking dead Reagan zombie, the South Carolinian squad, Vivek Ramasomething, and rest of the hopeless hopefuls, plus some perennial loser from New Jersey (not Chris Christie), to simply wither away like the patch of daisies siding my driveway, would that depress the current race? Would it enliven it? Would it be good or bad?
My answer: neither. If the aliens the feds are hiding from us snatched up every White House wanter like Kang and Kodos, it wouldn’t matter all that much—other than the fact Kamala Harris would be Madame President and Putin may prematurely nuke his own office in the Kremlin just avoid being forced to listen to her glass-gargling voice over the телефон. The current crop of Oval aspirants is about as inspiring as a staring contest between Mitch McConnell and John Fetterman. (Too soon?) Our interstellar guests wouldn’t even bother body-swapping with the next leader of the free world. One trip around the Iowa fairgrounds sampling every cholesterol-packed delicacy deep-fried in ethanol in almost three-digit-heat would immediately convince any off-world visitor to blast off for a more austere environ.
This isn’t meant to come off as ironic detachment, or even everything-is-terribleism. The internet posture of weary observer isn’t just play-acting, it’s irresponsible. Presidential politics should garner our attention. We should keep a keen interest in who eventually leads the country, what he or she thinks on various issues ranging from inflation to the Ukraine war to transgender bathroom policy to droning goat-herder protocol. Citizenship isn’t voting for candidates like grocery shopping, basing our choice on bright packaging and expiration dates. All the campaign pageantry, the interviews, tweets, polling, press releases, canvasing, ad spots, extemporaneous remarks, dead-animal-on-a-stick eating, and flesh pressing are necessary to inform a concerned citizenry. Otherwise, how else would we know the Miami mayor isn’t wised up on the Uyghur genocide in China, or that Robert Kennedy, Jr. really is off his nut.
If President Biden expanded his DOJ’s persecution to every Republican rival besides the bumbling frontrunner, and ordered fed enforcers to whisk them all off for extended GITMO vacays, the race wouldn’t change considerably. The GOP doesn’t have anyone fresh or exciting waiting in the wings, unless your idea of a thrill is being tut-tutted by Bushy throwback. And President MAGA Barbie? I’d rather be forced to sit through seven straight screenings of the Barbie movie.
There’s always a slim chance that I’m wrong. The first Republican primary debate is set for August 23rd. Perhaps then, I’ll be tanned, rested, and ready to review relevant soundbites over Twitter, or X, or whatever Elon decides to rebrand his ego-buy as. At the pace he tweets, something tells me the richest man-child in the world could use a few fun-in-the-sun days too, his phone first shot-putted into the ocean.
Life can’t be politics all the time. Sunny respites are required. Just talk to relatives who have the TV permanently tuned to Fox News or MSNBC. They can’t think outside the cultural-cutthroat red-blue binary, let alone enjoy a beer without first insisting it’s not Bud Light.
At least the president has the right idea: he’s taking the rest of the month off. Biden’s going to be napping shirtless on Rehoboth sand while his opponents boil in their shirtsleeves on a dusty Iowa fairground.
Running for president is a tiring business, and even more tiring to watch. Until the verbal shivs start stabbing out on stage, I’ll be on holiday, cooking the thinning hair on my pate shoreside. And would it kill you to fetch me a margarita? Rimmed with Tajín, not salt, please.