Kat Upton, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model

David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

Kate Upton, the model splashed across the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, is at the center of a hot debate that has nothing to do with birth control, Mitt Romney’s tax returns or how the heck Newt Gingrich persuaded three women to marry him.

Some among the sleek set in the fashion industry think the 19-year-old, self-promoting model is too chubby to be chic -- their definition of hefty encompassing 99% of the nation’s females. The fashion mavens denigrate Upton’s whole look – her too-blond hair, her generic, pouty cheerleader face and her long legs that one critic described as looking as if they belong to a player for the WNBA. The casting director for Victoria’s Secret fashion shows said she’d never allow such a skank to darken her runway. (We all know how Victoria’s Secret is the epitome of haute couture.)

Others look down on the young woman’s tabloid lifestyle, her romantic links to Kanye West and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and even the teeny-tiny size of her bikini bottom in the Sports Illustrated cover shot.

Upton's defenders say she has a right to party. To suggest she is fat, they say, is tantamount to promoting anorexia. Her fans insist that Kate’s look is a healthier example for American girls, even if her beach attire indicates she can’t distinguish between panties and a Post-it stuck to a strand of dental floss.

The point here is not to take sides in this debate or even imply it has any importance. The Kate Upton kerfuffle simply lends a little perspective to the current political campaign. Journalists have been covering every twitch and twist of the Republican nomination fight for months now, millions of dollars have been spent on attack ads and robo calls and the candidates have roamed the countryside shaking hands and calling each other names, yet the number of people who have taken part in primaries and caucuses compared with the number of Americans who have stayed away is about the same as the ratio of fabric to bare skin in Kate’s beach shot.

For all the intensity of the presidential race thus far, there are still millions of folks who never bothered to tune in to any of the candidates’ debates. But the YouTube video of Kate Upton dancing the Dougie in the bleachers at a ballgame has attracted more than 3.5 million views. 

We may be in the midst of a titanic struggle for the soul of the country, but, in the land of the free, none of us is required to pay attention.