Conclude what you will from this morning’s Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin (and the early consensus seems to be that Palin validated while Biden may have just outpointed), the event itself stood as a sign of a political culture that takes itself, its contenders and its issues with great and considered seriousness. Which is not to say that American politics doesn’t labour under its share of pointscoring pure politicking, but above and beyond all that, is a sophisticated and often elegant dialogue that looks to substance.

It’s what makes the process of presidential election such an enduring fascination … even at this distance. This, to paraphrase the Seinfeld experience of the Australian poll of 2007, is not an election about nothing.