In the Arena

Election Road Trip, Day 21: Ghost Politicians

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Napa, California

Traveling Companions: none

Event: the lack of events

An astute commenter noted that I passed through Nevada without a word about the Harry Reid-Sharron Angle Senate Race. There is a reason for that. This trip is about things I can actually see with my own eyes. For all intents and purposes, Sharron Angle is invisible–and Harry Reid was out of state for the days I was there. Angle is part of a growing legion of (mostly Republican) ghost politicians. It’s a trend that has been building for years: why risk actually meeting with the public, or dealing with the media, if there’s a chance you might say something makaka. If you’re an inexperienced extremist like Angle, Rand Paul or Christine O’Donnell, there’s a very good chance you’re going to screw up. If you ran a primary race as a right-wing scorcher, like Ken Buck in Colorado, there’s always a chance you’re going to get caught modifying a position. (I’m therefore grateful to Buck for the courage he showed in meeting a politically unreliable columnist like me–really!)

In fact, I went to a Buck event for veterans in Denver that consisted of the following: Candidate walks in, shakes every hand. Candidate announces that he’s not going to say anything of substance because of the presence of a Democratic Party tracker (with videocam). Candidate leaves.

Now I’m in California, which led the way on the evaporation of political events. The state’s so big that the only way to communicate is via TV ads, plus the occasional debate. Campaign stops are photo ops. There will be a gubernatorial debate here Tuesday. But I’ll spend most of my time meeting with the friends and respected members of the community whom you, dear readers, recommended.

This post is part of my Election Road Trip 2010 project. To track my location across the country, and read all my road trip posts, click here.