I am interested in politics—anybody who follows this site knows this. But there’s one hot-button political issue that dominates the news and pundit discussions lately that I’m simply not interested in right now: the 2008 Presidential election. I have no favorite candidates. Heck, I’m not even paying attention to who’s running at this point. I’ve heard most of the big names—Clinton, Guiliani, Obama, Romney, etc., etc., etc.—but have fervently avoided paying any more attention than I absolutely have to. I just don’t care right now. It is too damn early to be making political decisions for an election over a year away.
I don’t know how or why this Presidential election season—which traditionally starts after the preceeding year’s November elections—got off to such a ludicrously early start this time around, but I’m not jumping on the bandwagon. There are pressing, near-term political issues to concern ourselves with. Let’s focus on those first, then we’ll consider the 2008 candidates (with steadily increasing scrutiny) starting in—say—2008.
One near-term political issue that has gotten a depressingly small amount of public and media attention is the elections scheduled for November 6, 2007. With all the 2008 Presidential focus, you may have forgotten that we have a ballot this year too in most places. Here in Fairfax County, Virginia, our crowded ballot will include election of our state legislators (Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate), the County Board of Supervisors (including the board chair), the County School Board, County Sheriff, and votes for-or-against bond referendums for schools and transportation.
These issues and offices may lack the glamor (and dramatic mudslinging) of Presidential politics, but they are hardly unimportant. In fact, these smaller, local elections often have a much more direct impact on our lives. Grossly inadequate transportation and public education systems are the two of the most important problems facing Northern Virginians today, for example, and they rest primarily in the hands of local and state policy-makers—not across the river in DC, but down the road at the Fairfax County Government Center and down I-95 at the statehouse in Richmond.
That is not to say that national issues don’t matter. They do. Selection of our next president will require very careful discernment as we continue to face threats from abroad, struggle to balance national security with personal freedoms, and remain embroiled in Iraqi sectarian/terrorist violence amid our post-war occupation. These and other national and foreign-policy issues should not be ignored. When the time comes, I will begin to follow the Presidential race, intensely research the candidates, author an endorsement, and so on. But the time is not now. I will make my 2007 decisions and endorsements this month; I will make my 2008 decisions and endorsements in September 2008. First-thing’s-first, people.
What’s amazing to me is how few people seem to be taking this stance on the premature electioneering going on around us today. The candidates declared their intents to run too early—some more than two years before the election. Many of the single-party debates being held between the Republican contenders and the Democratic ones respectively have already occurred. Most-insanely, some states are scheduling their 2008 primaries and/or caucuses for January—and as they all jockey for first-position, there is an increasing risk that some people will be casting 2008 Presidential Primary ballots in 2007.
Has it occurred to anybody that people who are following the 2008 race today will probably be tired of it before the summer? Has it occurred to anybody that a bored electorate suffering from campaign-fatigue is unlikely to show up at the polls when November  finally rolls around? Has it occurred to anybody (especially the candidates) that an 18 or 24-month campaign is so long that, with all the opposition mudslinging, we’ll probably consider everybody in the race ‘unelectable’ by the time we actually reach the election?
But here’s the beauty of it: We call the shots. If we don’t watch the debates, and if we keep telling our newspaper, Internet, and television media outlets that we don’t care yet and would prefer to see more about current political issues instead of premature Presidential campaigning, all this 2008 talk will evaporate. So may I humbly recommend to you, the intelligent reader, that you join me in stubbornly ignoring 2008 Presidential politics? May I humbly recommend that you focus on the 2007’s elections (start researching and make sure you’re registered to vote today; the balloting is less than two months away) instead of 2008’s?
We’ll come back to this subject after the new year, when it starts becoming important.