Even Mitt’s not showing up! (Cliff Owen)

I apologize. I do not mean to suggest that the Republican 2012 presidential field present at the debate compares unfavorably with the question of whether or not Bristol Palin had plastic surgery when it comes to sustaining public interest for more than eight seconds at a time. Absolutely not! Thursday’s discussion between Ron Paul, That Guy You Can’t Google, What’s His Name, I Had No Idea He Was Running, and Not Donald Trump is going to be as riveting as — sadnglk;anrwairhthjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhppppppppppppppp

I apologize, I seem to have fallen asleep while typing this and hit my head on the keyboard.

On the bright side, while I slept, I had a vivid dream about the sounding of the Last Trump, in which Donald Trump came riding in from all directions on the horses of the Apocalypse and I became so terrified that Mitch Daniels had to sit next to me, stroke my hand and murmur soothing things about his moratorium on social issues.

It’s not that I don’t want to be interested. I’m sure I will be, eventually. In the meantime, I am adjusting my set, trying to figure out why I don’t really recognize anyone. Increasing the contrast just turns everyone gradually more and more orange, and for a moment it seems that the debate is between oddly coiffed clones of John Boehner. But of course it is not. It just turns out that the people who have actually been generating that elusive quality called Buzz are off somewhere doing something marginally more fun, like Cinco de Mayo-ing, or writing an essay about the role taupe has played in their lives.

In a way, this is adding insult to injury. Nothing says “I have no plans for Cinco de Mayo” like “I am a GOP 2012 candidate who is showing up at Thursday’s debate.” This is the grown-up version of the decision to hold the Math Olympiad Finals on the same night as prom.

The Fix has a wonderful guide to the GOP 2012 presidential debate tonight if you actually want to know who these people are. And they’ll be live-tweeting it.

But my bet is you don’t.

Ninety-one percent of a totally non-scientific poll of Post users said they weren’t planning to watch.

And before you go blaming me and those other non-scientific users for being jaundiced, callow youth incapable of enthusiasm for serious politics, consider: I’d be a lot more enthused if the candidates seemed to have any enthusiasm themselves.

It’s just sad, really. I understand that 2012 is a race against an incumbent, and people hate to run against incumbents — much less incumbents who just nabbed bin Laden. But part of the fun of democracy is knowing that and trying anyway! Voters deserve a choice. Right now, all we’re getting are some well-intentioned placeholders, with everyone anyone is mildly excited about holding his or her hat demurely outside the ring.

This is the party of Lincoln! This is the party of Reagan! Heck, this is the party of Fred Dalton Thompson! A mere 150ish years ago, Lincoln debated around Illinois, and people came in droves! Now all anyone can field for a presidential debate are five guys whose most salient feature is that they aren’t Donald Trump?

Maybe this is unfair and lazy and millennial of me. I concede that, as a generation, we have the attention span of a gnat that has just gone off its Ritalin. I concede that we tend to confuse what is important with what is impressive. But that doesn’t mean we don’t vote. And maybe this debate is important. Maybe it’s vegetable politics — not vegetable in the sense that all the people watching appear to be in some sort of vegetative state, but vegetable in the sense that it’s boring but good for you.

But if that were the case, Mitt Romney would show up.