I have recently been to the United States twice in the last three weeks. There was passion for the finals of the college basketball season. There is passion for the finals of the professional hockey season, professional basketball season and the beginning of the baseball season. People were glued to their televisions to watch the Masters Golf Tournament to see if Tiger Woods would win again. What I didn't see was passion for the November presidential election. Why?
The obvious answer is that the election will take place in November; seven months is an eternity in politics. While there was some excitement during the Republican primaries with a series of candidates - Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Santorum- challenging Mitt Romney, there was no real passion behind the candidates. Mostly the rhetoric was either Anyone but Romney or Anybody but Obama.
On the Democratic side, President Obama has not been able to maintain the excitement of 2008. He has certainly had some accomplishments, but the soaring speeches of his campaign, the narrative of the first African-American as President have not been translated into a genuine transformation. This is not to say that all the blame should be placed on the President's shoulders, but merely to note that his 50% popularity ratings should be higher at this point for a sitting President.
Just as the Republicans have accepted Romney with considerable reservations, the Democrats are set to rally behind Obama, but the thrill is gone. The young who left school to ring doorbells for candidate Obama are and will be less present in 2012.
The Presidential election in the United States traditionally has been a global story. After all, historically, it has been the choosing of the leader of the free world. Perhaps another reason for the lack of passion is a realization that whoever wins will have a limited role in world affairs as well as limited options domestically. The unipolar world seems well past and perhaps with it the importance of the U.S. President.