US election: An outsider's perspective

Washington, Nov 6 (IANS) It's late September and fall has just arrived in America. The leaves are green and yellow and red and other hues that they were never meant to assume outside a Fauvist painting.

The sun is bright, the breeze is cool, the day is calm and the yard signs read "Obama/Biden" or "Romney/Ryan".

I stretch my neck in a pointless attempt to spot a "Lennon/McCartney" or "Dravid/Laxman" board, but then, this is America, not the Commonwealth.

The temperature may be in the low twenties, or mid-seventies, as the diabolical system of measuring temperature on these shores informs us, but the political climate resembles that of an Indian summer.

Switch on television and choose whatever programme you may, election season is inescapable.

Between reality shows and dance-offs and bake-offs and the endless stream of pills and potions that promise to cure everything from piles to penury, you can't miss the candidates and their messages.

Their ideologies may differ, but Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (or their advertising agencies, at any rate) seem most comfortable when attacking each other. The message isn't so much "Vote for me and prosper" as it is "Vote for the other guy and hell and damnation shall follow".

A little girl bawls, exhausted by "Bronco Bama" and Mitt Romney. And who can blame her? Adults aren't allowed to weep from fatigue, it's not the grown-up thing to do.

Shake your head, grit your teeth, turn off the tube and head for YouTube. Where my "Gangnam style" video cannot be accessed until I've heard about how Obama has sold the nation to Mars (not really) and how Romney secretly prefers croquet to baseball.

Four debates, four moderators and superhuman powers of staving off Hypnos, the god of sleep, have done it for me. No one really cares about what the candidates' policies are, or what their track records say about them.

Their body language, their smiles, and the colour of their spouse's dresses appear to be paramount. Perhaps Michelle Obama and Ann Romney both chose to wear pink dresses to the second presidential debate because their husbands appear to be dead even in the 2012 race for the presidency. Or something.

In Virginia, the anecdotal evidence of my eyes appears to show an even number of Obama and Romney signs. All the way on the other side of the country in sunny California, Romney signs are like Yangtze river dolphins -- you know they're out there somewhere, but you're damned if you can spot them.

Thankfully the World Series of baseball appears to be a bigger draw in San Francisco than the presidential election; no surprise, since the local team, the Giants, are in the playoffs.

Our tour guide, Keith, mentions the team many times during our bus ride. (Buster) Posey and (Miguel) Cabrera, the season's two batting champions, are mentioned on numerous occasions while Obama and Romney have no takers.

On Oct 28, the SF Giants win their fourth consecutive game, shutting out the Detroit Tigers and sealing the World Series. Election Day? What's that?

The long journey back to the East Coast begins. Our final flight, from Chicago to Washington DC, brings a reminder of two things.

First, that Daylight Saving Time ends the next day, which means everyone needs to set their clocks back an hour for winter. And second, that the election is Nov 6, and everyone should vote.

We're back in Washington DC. Two days before the Leader of the Free World is elected. Tell me again, is Yuvraj in the Test squad?

(6-11-2012 - Misha Kumar is a freelance journalist currently visiting the US)

Misha Kumar

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