American politics is fascinating. It is also frustrating, especially if you are American and involved in it, but for outside watchers it is one of the best political spectacles you can get.
In the last few years I have started following American politics quite closely. It is a complicated and messy business but so entertaining at the same time.
Let’s take the biggest event in the American political calendar, the presidential election. The campaign never really stops but the last year or two before the election are especially fun. All the primaries on both the Democratic and Republican party sides, debates among the candidates for candidates, debates among the actual candidates, pundits’ comments etc. So much free entertainment. You have to pay to watch all the fancy movie or sport channels like HBO or Sky but most of the news channels covering politics are free to watch. How convenient.
American political events, like the above-mentioned debates, are professionally organized and televised and their quality is much better than the average reality show or any of the Idol-style competitions. Why would you watch hopeless aspiring musicians being humiliated by the usually moronic celebrity hosts if you can watch hopeless aspiring statesmen abusing each other.
The closer the election looms the more frantic all the activities become. Of course the most entertaining is the election day (and night) itself. All the world media provide rolling coverage but of course the American (and to some degree British) ones are the best to follow. I usually make sure to have the day off, or at least have a late shift, the following day so I can watch the election night coverage. It is almost like watching a sport show with all the results coming in live.
American elections are a statistician’s and geek’s dream come true. Because of its complicated electoral system involving electors from all the states it is like watching 50 separate elections happening at the same time. Add the Congressional and the Senate races and you get a cornucopia of data in all possible graphic forms: diagrams, tables, cartograms, charts and, of course, maps.
As a geographer I especially like all the maps produced to show electoral and demographic trends in particular states and counties. Take for example Virginia. For years a solidly Republican state which is recently becoming more and more Democratic. Once we look at the map of how each county voted we can see that the northern regions of the state are becoming quite solidly blue. These are of course the booming suburbs and exburbs of Washington DC where the population has more in common with the folks in NYC, New Jersey or even Massachusetts than in rural Virginia. Similar change is happening in Colorado where Denver and its suburbs (hosting many newcomers from liberal coastal California) are gradually turning this once solidly red state into a proper battleground. These are only a few examples of the interesting processes uncovered by the American electoral process.
One can of course find all the statistics and trends all the time but during the election times they are prominently featured in the world media, even those which are normally focused on mindless celebrity gossip. And on the election night itself there is a stream of interesting data coming in continuously, state by state, county by county, presented in a graphically attractive form. Fun and educational at the same time.
On election nights all I need is some good drink and snacks and my entertainment is sorted. It is almost like the Super Bowl, another major American spectacle. It is almost a pity that presidential elections are held only once every four years. Luckily for political geeks like me there are also midterm elections, governor’s races, mayoral elections (especially fascinating in big cities like NYC, LA or Chicago) and many many more. Endless source of data and entertainment .
So, grab your popcorn and coke (maybe even with whiskey), have fun and learn something about America.