Courting the indifferent vote

Barry Smith

“Hi, Barry, we’re doing a talk show on the role of independent political candidates and I’d like you to be on the panel,” said the voice of a friend from my message machine.”Oh, that’s right,” I thought to myself as I pushed the “erase” button. “I forgot to tell everyone that I’m a complete and total phony.”Maybe you already knew this about me, but I’ve only come to terms with it recently and am now ready to “out” myself.Ahem! Attention everyone – I really don’t care about politics.Man that feels so good to say.From my years of pretending, I know all the reasons I’m supposed to care, because like any good phony, I spent lots of time and energy telling others that they should be exactly the way I’m pretending to be.Go on, say it: Ivory tower. Privileged American. Irresponsible white boy. All good points. But I just can’t pretend anymore – the phoniness was tearing me up inside. I don’t care about politics. Foreign policy? No. Foreign foods? Yum.Electoral College? Nope. Clown college? Cool.I know, I know, really – I know all this stuff – I’m supposed to not take for granted that I live in a land where I can partake in democracy, and people have killed and died so that I can enjoy living in a free society and shouldn’t I be encouraging people to get out there and participate or writing my congressman about something? Well, I’ve tried. But when I sit down to write my congressman the only think I can think to ask is if he’s heard the new Tom Waits album. No, just kidding – I don’t even know who my congressman is. It’s a congresswoman for all I know, and I don’t even care enough to look it up.Whew! I feel such a weight lifted!Swing states? Nope. Swing sets. Yep.Campaign trails? No thanks. Seeing trails? Yes, please.I’ve written political columns in the past, and they were all based on my incredibly one-dimensional political understandings; the Cliff Notes version of whatever current event I was commenting on: Clinton likes sex, Bush is dumb, and Barry is a phony, looking up all his political facts on the Internet and then dropping them casually as if it’s something he thinks and talks about all day long. I didn’t watch a single minute of the debates, and I didn’t watch the news or read the papers or go online to see what I may have missed. I did catch wind of the theory that Bush (I think that’s his name) had a square mass on his back that some thought was a receiving device. I went to and checked it out, not because of the political ramifications of having a president who is unable to speak for himself, but to see what kind of cool gadget it may have been. And in case I needed to make a joke about it, so that people could continue to think that I care about politics.Independent candidates? Nope. Independent films. Definitely.Debate analysis? No. Making a joke about which one is the “master debater?” Oh, yeah.Four years ago I got real excited about the Nader campaign. I wrote way too many columns about it and the election and globalization and how there’s no difference between blah blah blah, which is probably why I was invited to be on a show about independents. At the time I really thought that I cared, but looking back I see that it was a forced caring, not a sincere one, like the way I care about the newest products from Apple Computer, or getting a DVD of the first season of “Chappelle’s Show.” Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that YOU shouldn’t care – it’s just that when I look deep within, in that quiet place where my Real Personal Truth resides, I find that I’m more concerned with overtoasting my Pop Tarts than I am about politics. And I’m only mildly fond of Pop Tarts.Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to vote on Nov. 15.Next Time: Barry is tired of pretending to care about sports, too – and you are there!Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is and his very own Web page is at


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