Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
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Where are all the yard signs?


In my corner of suburbia, typically a hotbed of partisanship, you'd hardly know that there is even a presidential race going on. I can count on my fingers the number of Trump and/or Clinton yard signs I've seen.

This might be good stewardship of campaign funds. After all, most election experts say Donald Trump has about a 99 percent chance of winning Tennessee's 11 electoral votes, so neither campaign is spending much money here. I'm sure that in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Florida the campaigns would be happy to shingle your roof with yard signs.

But I sense something deeper is going on here in Hamilton County. In the places where we suburbanites gather — Sunday School classes, youth sports fields, neighborhood restaurants — the looming election is not an overriding topic of conversation. Whether this is out of boredom or caution, I'm not sure.

Kids are good barometers of the political mood. Last spring, both of my sons, ages 9 and 14, were curious about where the candidates stood on issues. For the last couple of months, though, the boys have been strangely silent about politics, which probably means their friends at school aren't talking about the election, which probably means their parents aren't talking much about the election, either.

Most of us, it seems, just want to hide in the basement until Nov. 9.

And here, I think, is why:

* People are tuning out the race from disgust for the tone of the campaigns. More than any presidential contest in my lifetime, this election seems more about personalities than policy. What more can be said about either of these candidates that will really change anyone's mind?

* It feels like the election should already be over. The driving metaphor for this election is that it's like a reality TV show. OK, a typical reality show season lasts 12 to 16 weeks. Most Americans began to tune in to the primary races last spring, so this reality show feels like it should already be over. Maybe bored suburbanites are saying, "Hand me the remote, honey."

* People want privacy. Talking about your preference in this presidential race is risky. Opinions are so passionate on both sides that revealing your favorite puts friendships at risk. Many suburbanites seem to have done the calculus and decided risking friendships over political banter is just not worth it.

* People are embarrassed. So much of the election is over-the-top; nothing seems real. I remember when elections were said to hinge on minor stuff, things like Al Gore's sighs and Dan Quayle's spelling. Good times, huh?

* Moderates feel disenfranchised. There is precious little middle ground in this election, so suburban center-left and center-right voters really don't feel like they have a place at the table. Hence, they default to more familiar ground: How 'bout them Vols or Dogs or Roll Tide.

* Partisans on both sides are fearful about the outcome. The people who are deeply invested in the results of this election are deathly afraid of what will happen if the other side wins.

Thankfully, the day after the election, the sun will come up. Meanwhile, Americans — I hope — will set aside the rancor and get on with their lives.

What, after all, is the alternative? Walking on eggshells in unsustainable.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at