Posted on October 22, 2012 by Ruth O’Brien

Years ago, I got rid of cable (we still have the television, just not cable service). For the life of me, I couldn’t see how television — the “boob tube,” as my mother always called it — could ever be important.

Being 12 to 15 months behind on all the series that other people watch has often been a virtue. For instance, watching Bill Paxton on Big Love a season late turned out to be a big plus. The perfectly accurate, anti-Mormon Romney series turned out to be an allegory in advance, a vision, with its ending of Paxton, playing a former “lost boy” dying in a pool of blood from an assassin’s bullet (his disgruntled, unemployed neighbor who could not get his one wife to obey him), literally seeing the light (white, no less) as he freed all three of his wives, and then with his last breath ordained the first of the wives as a radical non-LDS, Mormon priest.

What an ending! What a series. It paid off to hold off and watch it later.

But Meet the Press and the debates are a different story.

My two teenaged boys, my husband, and I popped the popcorn and tried to watch the “town hall” last Thursday in my study (our version of a family room) on our largest computer screen, with our broadband service, but this was discouraging. Both Romney and Obama turned into pixel monsters and started stuttering, as all the other online viewers strained our service beyond its capacity.

So yesterday, with my on-line patience shot, I had nowhere to watch Meet the Press. And I knew I couldn’t wait for this a.m.’s news to find out what had been said on it, so I borrowed my friends’ couch, and while he gave me coffee, she collected their daughter’s oboe and ran off to a music lesson, and we talked — not fully concentrating, since (as I explained it to my sons on the way over, reluctant because they did not want to impose on my friends or get out of bed at 10:30) we only need to get a real-time sense of these talking heads.

And then of course I couldn’t help but talk to the TV. Has anyone had the courage to tell David Axelrod that his makeup is too orangey, and his eyebrows have too much shape and contour? Now, it may just be the color-contrast dial on my friends’ TV, and besides, Axelrod’s style and performance are so much improved from the last time I watched TV that I should not be so snarky. By contrast, the Democrats’ other pundit, Dee Dee Myers, looks marvelous! And New York Times foreign-policy reporter Helene Cooper, what can you say — she was just born this way, an articulate champion of comprehensive and deep thought of a kind that is so rare in political journalism.

But those GOP Floridians and Ohio members of Congress! Please don’t listen to them — or, as I told my friend, “hear” the opposite to find what they’re afraid of.

Anyhow, it wasn’t the television that gave me my news, my ending for this morning. Rather, it was the socializing while watching that did it. And I don’t even want to write itout loud for fear I may jinx it, so let me save it for last, and let’s whisper — as we try to all give Obama the pep and confidence he needs for tonight.

My friend, born and raised in Ohio, gave me the hint — a hint I hope is true.

Obama will take Ohio. In saving Detroit, saving jobs in Romney’s very own growing-up state (Michigan), he also saved jobs in the neighboring state — Ohio.

So, the GOP is wrong. The political landscape has changed since 2008; it has been transformed, but the enthusiasm and energy are still there behind Obama. The secret is, it’s all in the parts — the auto parts.

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see

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