1. I saw two positive ads in a row on TV last night - one from Romney and one from Obama. It made me very happy. I shouldn't be that happy watching political ads, so it's indicative of how bad they can be I think.
2. So something I was thinking about was that despite competing claims about "personality cults" and "worshipping" a particular candidate, I haven't noticed much of that. I think we may be misdiagnosing the problem. What I've seen instead is all sides (I'm including libertarians on this one) believe at their core that anyone who would vote for the other candidates is either ignorant or barbaric and that there is no real difference between the other two. I see this sort of talk a lot more than I see praise for ones own candidate. We in America have a healthy suspicion of politicians, and I think worrying too much about a personality cult is a misdiagnosis of the problem. Nobody seems to like their candidate and they understand that politics is a messy business and you don't get what you want. They don't seem to be expecting miracles from their candidate. But they do think he's decent enough particularly compared to the other monsters running.
Which brings me to my ultimate point: maybe the problem with politics isn't that it makes us servile and cultish. Maybe the problem with politics is that it makes us exaggerate what we don't like about other people and distrustful. I think it's much easier for people like me to swallow this after Bush, of course. An unjust war and a depression (even if he didn't cause it) are pretty bad. This is not like Republicans post-Clinton. They may not have liked him or his policies but how horrendous was he really (same with Reagan and Bush I for Democrats)? Obama is still in this depression so he may be getting some of the same effect, although I think it's inappropriate to lay that at either Obama or Bush's feet. So you can understand why people are on edge. But still - I think when we talk about personality cults we misdiagnose the problem. It's not that we love our guy, it's that we really despise the other guys and can't comprehend why anyone would vote for them.