The real war between the UK and the US… election coverage
“I can’t sleep. I need to know what’s happening in Michigan” says a non-resident and non-citizen of the United States of America, wrapped up in a blanket, five screens in front, holding onto a mug of espresso, eyes bloodshot, at 4:30 am.
A shout out to all those who haven’t slept in the last week, nervously refreshing their screens every two minutes, watching John King’s energy level drop as each day goes.
While the United States anticipates a purge that might follow this hullabaloo of an election, the world gets some fabulous entertainment in the political horror genre. As the pendulum swung between red and blue, the numbers crawling up and splitting apart, we were all at the edge of our seats, enraptured by John King’s magic wall. While the media does play a huge part in the excitement and theatrics that surround the election, the electoral system in the land across the pond is the foundation for the world’s most high stakes drama production. Right from the rallies, campaign adverts, and celebrity endorsements, to the process of voting, the whole thing looks like an overly long theatrical spectacle. The adrenaline rush that comes with the thought of everything depending on the shrouded electoral college is inexplicably intoxicating given the huge gains and losses that happen in the process; probably the same reason why people like watching shows like Daredevil. Also, the thought of having different parties winning different races is quite stupefying. Imagine all that spicy conflict and chaos with a Democrat President, a Republican Senate, and a Democrat House — mmm, prime reality TV content (definitely better than the Kardashians).
If elections were Christmas day, the US presidential election is akin to the joy of opening presents while the UK’s, the drab moment when you bite into a Brussel sprout. No excitement, no thrill, just simple, plain, and uninspiring. It is almost as if the elections aren’t the Hunger Games, but instead a calm, regular democratic life process! There is no Tory candidate crawling up by 0.5% in Arran, only to be overrun by an SNP candidate by 100 votes, and then inching back up to get a few more numbers. The winner is not the “Leader of the Free World” with access to nuclear codes, just a regular Member of Parliament, doing regular Member of Parliament things. There is no news update flashing “KEY RACE ALERT” as though announcing an apocalypse. There is only a constituency seat winner, definitively announced after all votes are counted (an utter blasphemy to Trumpites). The First Past The Post system is apparently not just an affront to politics, but also to quality entertainment. Thank goodness Jeremy Vine exists to add some colour and pomp to an otherwise grey election media landscape. Vine prancing around his virtual infographics is probably as close the United Kingdom will ever get to making a spectacle of the democratic process.
Comparing these elections, I find, is quite similar to comparing the two iterations of The Office. I am fully aware that I am going to hit a nerve that hurts the very heart of Britain (even worse than colonialism), but hey, this is a democracy…ish. It isn’t that The Office UK doesn’t make us laugh (barely), or that it isn’t a good comedic representation of the harsh truths of reality and the terrible people that exist within it, it is just that you can only laugh at it for so long before it gets dreadfully boring. The Office US on the other hand, is more dynamic, more exciting, and has story arcs and character arcs! Who would have thought that made for better television? The UK’s election coverage gives us what we need to know, the predictions and the results, the reactions to those results, and heavy analysis on why things went the way they did — a satisfactory television show that meets expectations. The US’ election coverage takes it a couple of steps further, by adding some chaos and drama, increasing the stakes, looking at states like battlegrounds, and the election as a war – a fun-filled television show that exceeds expectations everywhere.
While I am fully grateful for this, and it is definitely better for the world that he isn’t, Donald Gigolo Trump makes for a significantly better villain than Asshat Boris de Prick Johnson. When the Tories took the election the UK was promised a Trump, what we got was a half-baked DC villain (thankfully, or things would be far worse than they are); every good movie needs a good villain and the Prime Minister has failed in this task like he does all tasks. Additionally, the political spectrum in the US, given its limited number of parties, is far more radical (mostly in the right wing) than in the Union. In the UK, you really don’t see many people wearing BBQ burger t-shirts, or interrupting press conferences by yelling that the opposition is a crime family stealing the freedom of the people of the world. While the politics of this is a whole other ballgame and its impacts, a serious discussion to be had, the optics of it all is quite cinematic. We all love a good movie with explosions, plot twists, and strong dichotomous characters; this is what the US elections provide. Without the mask of theatrics, all election coverage would be is statistics — no one likes statistics (except maybe statisticians).
Politics is not meant to be a bloodthirsty war. Elections aren’t supposed to be a popularity contest. Election coverage, ideally, should not be about ratings and views. But unfortunately we live in a world that is scarily dystopian with utopia not even on the horizon. I thus unwillingly, yet unflinchingly claim that in the battle for likes, shares, and subscribers, the United States of America hereby emerges victorious (unlike Trump in Michigan… and Nevada, and Georgia, and Pennsylvania).