Needed: A Moratorium on Punditry?

Could life as we know it go on without TV pundits?

Suppose they gave an election and nobody prognosticated?

The current climate of political coverage reminds me of one reason I’ve been able to stay happily married for 21 years. Early on, my wife laid down the law that she didn’t need the emotional roller coaster brought on by my breathless daily reports of the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Average. We were in the 401(k) business for the long haul and the quarterly statements would be sufficient.

I wish I could so easily ignore 2012’s surplus of journalists, analysts, pundits, bloggers and “talking heads” who populate the “24-hour-what-passes-for-news” cycle. I appreciate hearing what the candidates say. I appreciate fact-checking. I appreciate a sincere enumeration of the reasons why Candidate A is the better choice for the nation. But I’m suffering burnout from all the minute-by-minute poll analysis, context, perspective, sage advice, insider scoops, “who’s cashing $10,000 checks and who’s collecting pop bottles THIS week,” etc.

Yes, it is eye-straining, mind-numbing, and gut-wrenching to endure a relentless onslaught of self-important blather about evangelicals, blue collar, skewed surveys, bounces, the base, sticking a fork in it, swing states, game-changers, “his one hope” and the rest.

To hear the pundits, everything hinges on the Latino vote…everything hinges on the retiree vote…everything hinges on likeability…everything hinges on the weather…This election has more hinges than ACE Hardware!

Yes, yes, I’ve already heard all about the importance of the Electoral College ad nauseum. I half expect that late on the evening of November 6, we’ll hear the winner of the presidential race. Then a puff of white smoke will arise and we’ll have the announcement of a new pope, the overturning of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the reinstatement of Pluto as a planet.

Members of the Fourth Estate seem to think it would be dereliction of their patriotic duty if they didn’t share every single scrap of trivia and speculation. (“If we don’t — King George III will return to power. And stuff.”)

Coverage seems to be aimed at policy wonks and super PAC chairmen. There’s no discernible practical application for John Q. Public, unless your pappy always told you, “Never change horses in midstream—unless you suddenly learn that the horse is also supported by a razor-thin majority of left-handed lapsed Catholics with more than two but fewer than five years of college.”

I try taking it with a grain of salt when some smug know-it-all tells us what the incumbent MUST do or zeroes in on one candidate’s FATAL MISSTEP. (Most likely, the fatal misstep will come when the candidate slips on a banana peel on the steps of his presidential library 20 years after completing his second term.)

I’ve always been a news junkie, but this sensory overload is messing with my blood pressure and my peace of mind. I can’t handle the swings between elation and melancholy, overconfidence and despair. I’ll find solace only if the animal rights activists start rescuing whatever small furry creatures the prophets are disemboweling for their divination.

Or…I will feel vindicated if just one news organization instructs its pollsters to ask the honest question: “If the election were held today…would you be surprised if TOMORROW we started two years of inane chatter about the 2014 midterm elections?”

Danny Tyree
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