I don’t know what it is about elections that gets my juices flowing, but I just can’t resist ’em. As an armchair spectator, of course, which is why I was up until the early hours yesterday watching events unfold in the US.
It all started on 15th October 1964 when I was spending the night at my grandmother’s house and she let me stay up late to watch the general election coverage.
I won’t forget her excitement when it looked likely that Harold Wilson’s Labour was looking likely to win. This was something that really mattered to her and so, by default, it mattered to me and has done ever since.
The tv picture was in black and white and the graphics were basic to non-existent. Not like the ones we saw on Wednesday morning with the state-by-state computerised map changing to red or blue as the results came in like some real-life version of Risk.
Back then, the politicians came in shades of grey too, like Harold above. Film star looks didn’t matter either, although they had fire in their bellies when they spoke, as I found out when I saw him at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester a few years later.
And why did he lose? Quote of the night for me was the analyst who said that some women had voted for him, despite his stand on the abortion issue. They’d done so because they thought he didn’t really mean it. In other words they were prepared to support a candidate they couldn’t believe.
But I didn’t start this post to have a dig at Romney, or Obama for that matter. It was really meant to be my observations as an interested couch potato.
Setting aside the vagaries of the US voting system that confuses many of us in the UK, I was surprised by the importance put on winning the popular vote. From what I can see, there is usually more than a few percentage points in it either way, and not since Richard Nixon in 1972 has anyone had a 20 point plus advantage. And didn’t that end badly?
This as much as anything defines the US to be a nation destined to be divided by political ideology, metropolitan versus the farming states, liberals and libertarians against the traditional and the conservative. We can only hope that Romney actually did mean it when he wished Obama well and that the republican and democrat politicians can find an acre or two of common ground.
Of course, what the US needs is a voting alternative. They say any American boy (or girl) can aspire to become president, IF they have film star looks, IF they can declaim like a talk show host, IF they have no skeletons lurking in the cupboard, IF they have malleable opinions and IF they can raise billions of dollars to campaign with.
But most important of all, IF they can climb to the top of the greasy pole of one of the two available political parties. And is a choice of two really no choice at all?
The same could be said of the UK, but at least we do have protest vote options, like UKIP, BNP, Monster Raving Loony or even the Liberal Democrats at a pinch.
Or you could even vote for Mr Bean. I was looking for a suitable video to lighten the mood and this one is from Comic Relief in 1992 featuring Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.
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