When I was a kid I watched election night because I was fascinated by presidents and the entire event made me feel connected to history.
When I was a teenager I was a Reagan Republican (maybe Alex P. Keaton influenced me?), and I watched and admired the landslide victories.
Later, after I graduated, I worked on a political campaign because I thought I could actually help change occur. As a father a few years later, I paid attention to election night because I felt it could have an impact on my children and their futures.
Now that I’m nearing 45, I watch election night for a different reason. Entertainment.
American politics is the greatest reality TV show ever televised. It’s Survivor, American Idol, The Amazing Race, and The Apprentice rolled into one. It’s a carnival sideshow, the greatest freak show on Earth.
I will watch election coverage tonight – I will be riveted to it – because it’s fascinating to watch.
I want to see the TV networks call election results moments after the polls close in a state. I want to see long lines and people waiting to vote. I want to see a Republican party hack and a Democratic party lackey in split screen on the television, each proclaiming victory, each barking at one another. I want to hear them call their opponent a socialist or a fascist. I want to see them talk over each other and try (even after the campaign is over) to run down the laundry list of talking points like parrots.
I really want to see some hanging chads, and hell even some hanging bobs or hanging chucks – anything that makes the voting process chaotic. I want to see lawyers in their double-breasted silk suits standing outside polling places in Virginia and Ohio and Florida, threatening law suits and talking about how some people have been disenfranchised.
I want to hear the political pundits spinning their BS hour after hour, discussing the minutiae of some precinct, some polling center, some voting machine that has hiccuped. I want to see the strangled looks on their smarmy faces as they strain to conceal their own personal prejudices and still report on the results.
I really want to see the network hosts swipe and tap their fingers on monolithic screens that display the U.S. map in colors of blue and red (and purple). I want them to fidget with the electoral college numbers and watch them shift and rise like a telethon.
I can’t wait to see the celebrities who insist they will leave the country if “so-and-so” is elected.
I want to see a candidate win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote, so we’ll all start to realize how stupid the system is. I want to see the candidates concede in defeat and triumph in victory. I want to see their party faithful – the apologists, the sycophants - cheer wildly and act like cattle, blindly yelping at every word.
I want to see the faces of people who are crying because the candidate they supported lost, acting as if life as they know it has ended.
I want to see reporters swarming around some obscure but suddenly famous local election official who’s making a statement about how the results in their precinct (county, state) will not be known for days or maybe weeks.
I so want to view the people who are so wrapped up in partisan politics that they demonize winners and tell us how this is the end of freedom as we know it because INSERT NAME HERE has been elected.
I want to hear the people on both side of the aisle talk about how their opponents don’t care about a segment of the population: GOP hates blacks and the poor; the Democrats despise the entrepreneur and top 1%.
This great American reality show is so damn exciting, so bizarre, so filled with unscripted drama, that it can only be produced every four years. It’s a spectacle that truly deserves to be enjoyed in full.
I want to hear the cheesy pop and rock songs that have been hijacked from the 1970s and 1980s and are now being used by Candidate X to symbolize his or her strength and leadership.
I want to see all of this because it entertains me to no end to see the partisanship, the “we win, they lose” attitude, the smugness, and the sappy optimism.
This is all so fascinating because it’s packaged as democracy and we tune in to watch it and root for it and bitch about it. But it’s not anything different than what has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years, and no more dignified.
We may have fancy voting machines and computer simulation models, and we may have college-educated pundits and Yale-educated candidates, but we still have the exact same DNA as the caveman of a few thousand years ago. Merely a blip on the geological timeline.
Since the first humans swam and walked across a land bridge to live in this continent, they have been selecting their “leaders.” At first they selected them based on brute strength or maybe sexual prowess. It was about protection and survival and it was raw and vicious. It was ugly and cruel.
Just like now.