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Politics

Head Fake

It seems to many that things have gone awry in America.

Gone are the days when the last two weeks of January were dedicated to Super Bowl hype . Today there is nary a media outlet that isn't pumped with Election '08 adrenaline. The news networks show back to back to back debates, polls are churned out daily, ESPN-style highlights, graphics and music condense the issues for us and former sportscasters are getting in on the pundit action.

The true blue, red-blooded American used to be able to dedicate this time of year to recognizing a nickel defense, to watching the health of second string quarterbacks, to keeping an eye on the over/under and to be dialed in on the best possible Super Bowl party. But now we are being asked to channel this energy into sussing out where we stand on issues and candidates. It takes a lifetime of Sundays to become an expert NFL fan; to even fake an informed Super Bowl conversation requires a vast knowledge base. Suddenly, the game has changed. The new Super Bowl is Presidential Politics and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us are fake fans . Sure, we know a touchdown when we see one, fumbles are exciting and getting sacked looks like it hurts & ndash; but secretly we pick our teams based on the color of the uniforms.

This Citizen Voices experiment has elevated me from run of the mill political loudmouth to loudmouth with a soapbox. A Humpty Dumpty-type fear of fact checkers has spurred me on to research and consider issues more closely than I would have in my role as anonymous loudmouth. Until last week, I was ignorant of the existence of Super Delegates . Revelation can lead to unwelcome epiphany - the horizon of things I & know nothing about is expanding at a frightening rate.

And I suspect I am not alone.

It is all too easy to support and & ldquo;like & rdquo; a candidate because of their stance on & ldquo;immigration, & rdquo; & ldquo;the economy & rdquo; or the & ldquo;War on Terror & rdquo; & ndash; but probe for specifics and all too often the supporter is a fake fan. Polls are mostly bunk this election cycle and I have no polling data to back me up, but it appears that a majority of supporters of any candidate have no specific idea what they are talking about. Some fault the candidates. Presidential hopefuls all claim to be aboard the straight talk express , but they know all too well that to speak on specifics is to be marginalized, to be Ralph Nadered.

Hypocritical, allusive and slippery politicians are nothing new. The American electorate is largely at fault for the spiraling state of America.

Most of the candidates from either side of our rigid two-party system seem a vast improvement from those we had to choose from in 2000 and 2004. But voters continue to approach presidential politics as just another & American Idol contest & ndash; pick a favorite ( Sexy Rudy or Charming Hillary and Obama or Singing Kucinich or Singing McCain or My Homey Mitt or Pretty John ) , call in, see who wins and then don't bother to buy the album or keep tabs on the winner's career. In most cases, we are still voting for the guy or gal we'd most like to have a beer with or the mommy or daddy we think most capable of minding the store while we forget our worries and get drunk at the Super Bowl party. Sustained and informed interest in the policies of our government are ongoing responsibilities, not timed contests with winners and losers. It requires an effort. Wolf Blitzer, Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann and the news readers on your local network are pushers of the Fake, enabling us to sound informed and remain ignorant.

The increased voter turn out and intense interest in this election are positive developments. Hope and change are the required remedies & ndash; but it's not the candidates who have to change.

-Chris McConnell is a bookseller, freelance writer, & former & high school & English teacher & and odd jobber who lives in La Jolla.