Technical difficulties are preventing Derek from posting directly, so he sent me these thoughts for his first Eph Pundit post.

First off, thank you for indulging me as I make the first forays into Ephpunditry. It seems clear that many of you really want a place to talk, to vent, to spew, and to argue with fellow Ephs about politics. Hopefully my posts, which will be suggestive rather than comprehensive, will provide a springboard for further conversation.

I don’t know about you, but I am politicked out. Now don’t get me wrong — I am still very much interested in this race, in policies, in ideas. But I need a break from the speeches and the commentary about the speeches and the commentary about the commentary about the speeches. Part of my own problem is that I am currently teaching a course, “The Modern Presidency and American Elections” in which I am trying to balance both serious discussion about the current race with a historical perspective on the topic. The course is cross-listed between history, political science, and leadership (a discipline or academic pursuit that can be traced almost directly to James MacGregor Burns, so there’s yer Eph connection) and my students have been fantastic. I have to keep my own views close to the vest while I prod and push and encourage theirs, and of course I write about politics as well, so perhaps my sense of short-term burnout is especially acute as a result. But something tells me that while we are all deeply committed to what will happen in the next few months, we are also glad that these conventions are behind us.

I suppose the responsible thing to do would be to try to place what has gone on in the last two weeks in some sort of perspective. But instead I am going to make a simple assertion: What we have seen represents lots of sound, even more fury (especially in the last couple of days) but probably not a whole lot of meaning. My guess is that once the dust has settled we will see a reversion to status quo ante by next friday, by which I mean the polls will have tightened again, with projections indicating that Obama has a roughly two-point lead among a deeply divided electorate. We live in an era in which both parties are guaranteed a baseline of support of about 40% but neither party is guaranteed so much as 45%. Barring some sort of meltdown on one side or the other (and keep in mind that for all of the red meat that Sarah Palin dished up to the base, her vetting process is just beginning, as the media and others will do what John McCain could not be bothered to, so a meltdown is not beyond the realm of the possible), a landslide seems unlikely.

What this means is that the so-called Independents or undecideds will wield their disproportionate power yet again. We get to see and hear from them every election cycle, and each time they appear on screen or have their words quoted in print I am both amazed and astounded by their self-regard: “I am waiting for one of them to prove to me that they are the best person for the job.” This is the solipsism of the uninformed who have turned indecision and willful ignorance into a virtue. For while Ralph Nader (speaking of solipsistic self-regard) will try to convince you otherwise, there are quite clear divisions between the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States in the year 2008 (as there were in 2004, and 2000) and those differences are easy to track down. The person who continues to feel the need to be convinced about the differences between the parties and the candidates, and thus to gain the satisfaction of their own importance in the body politic, gets to claim a place in the electorate that privileges ignorance and laziness. I am a liberal Democrat, albeit one who embraces a muscular foreign policy where warranted, but there is a part of me that appreciates Rush Limbaugh more than the typical undecided voter. At least Limbaugh, for all of his fatuousness, has staked a claim on what he believes and how he feels.

So I encourage you to go out, enjoy the weekend, ignore the chattering classes, and clear your heads. After weighing in here with your commentary, of course.

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