Nice Try, Kid

Leave it to an 11-year-old to ask the question nobody’s yet been brave enough to raise: What the heck are we all going to do for the next eight months?

The Boston Globe’s Patrick Healy writes today that an unidentified child reporter asked John Kerry just how he planned to kill time until Election Day. In response, the presumptive Democratic nominee suggested monthly debates with President Bush — a “spontaneous idea,” according to the Senator’s aides. (Anybody think the kid was a plant?)

A Bush campaign official turned down the offer, the Globe reports, saying the president would stick with the “tried and true” format of fall debates.

Meantime, the specter of boredom loomed in yet another context. The Washington Post’s John Harris notes that Kerry’s biggest opponent in yesterday’s four primaries was, yawn, voter apathy. You political junkies — and if you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly a political junkie — may have thought the Democratic primaries were a series of rock-‘em, sock-‘em cliffhangers. But Harris cites a new survey by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate which indicates that what was really going on between January 19 (the Iowa caucuses) and now was … the lowest ever voter turnout in any contested Democratic nominating process. Just 11.4 percent of those eligible voted in 19 state primaries, according to the committee. (Nine percent voted in 1996, when Bill Clinton had no opposition.)

If the electorate really and truly thought that primary blitz was boring, we fear for the nation’s citizenry as it tries to fend off the narcolepsy certain to set in with the dog days of a campaign summer, before the homestretch next fall. And we’re not sure that a series of monthly debates on the issues — while high-minded and deserving of an A on our civics report card — would in itself serve to keep the electorate awake.

We do know, however, that the current level of discourse on the campaign trail makes us want to hibernate until November.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.