Entertainment trumps all in US election

This US presidential election scheduled for November 8 is breaking all rules and sending axioms out the proverbial window.

August 28, 2016 21:31
3 minute read.
Trump, election

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The axiom in democracies goes like this: the more stable and older the democracy, the less interested the voters. In established democracies those people who do vote are often voting on boring issues, like referendums and judges and candidates that are part of the system – the old established political system and candidates.

New, fresh, democracies are imbued with a sense of romance and excitement. Voters come out in droves. New democracies have virgin voters, people who rush to experience the thrill of vox populi, the voice of the people. Even those who cannot sign their names make an X with black ink and hold up their black fingers in a V for victory.

This US presidential election scheduled for November 8 is breaking all rules and sending axioms out the proverbial window.

This election has been turned into more of an entertainment event than a news event. Voters and media are equally guilty. And it is mostly because of Donald Trump.

For Trump, the entertainment factor is a positive.

In fact, it is a significant factor in his overwhelming success in reaching this stage and in ensuring his continued prominence in the political arena.

From the entertainment point of view this election has drawn more interest than any previous election in the United States or, for that matter, any Western democracy – established or newly created.

And it’s on a roll. This election continues to draw more interest than any democratic election in history.

It’s not just the US that has gone overboard over the challenge of electing a new leader. The Middle East is almost at the point of obsession vis a vis the Clinton/Trump election. So are Europe and Asia.

Russia, too, is fascinated by the election.

Well, not exactly by the election – as of now almost everyone everywhere is mostly fascinated by Trump. A better word may be aghast.

There is still a long way to go until November 8 and I expect that as Election Day approaches the subterfuge, the dirt that the Clinton's have allegedly been engaging in will surface and people will be fascinated and/or aghast with that also. It is officially known in election lingo as the October surprise.

That is, information a campaign cannot control that comes out at the last minute and could shift the voters away from the candidate.

Another axiom about democracies goes like this: there are candidates who people love to hate, and those candidates often win elections. Many voters, and not just American voters, vote against one candidate rather than for the other candidate.

In Israel, Ariel Sharon was one of those candidates.

So were Benjamin Netanyahu, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Olmert, Menachem Begin and even Shimon Peres (almost every Israeli prime minister in modern history, in fact, except for Ehud Barak). Being parve in politics is not a plus. Voter indifference is the death of a candidate. Just look at the Republican primary candidates. Some of the best qualified candidates got no traction because, while they had gravitas on issues and policies, they lacked personality. And, in today’s political arena, personality – media personality – is what matters.

This US election is all about emotions. While Hillary Clinton is cool and always in control, Trump is about emotion. He is all about kishkes and visceral feelings. He creates emotional responses and that is part of what makes this election so remarkable and unpredictable.

Obviously, selecting the next leader of the free world is a crucially important decision, and understandably the policies of the next US president will have a significant impact on every region throughout the world. The candidates know that and the voters know that, and when people are excited about an election voters vote and the entire process becomes electric.

The upcoming presidential debates will set viewing records much like the Republican primary debates set records. Ad prices will soar. Think of it as the Superbowl of politics. Like the World Cup of elections. The debates (and the November election itself) will be telecast live around the world and then replayed in prime time. Every single newspaper, website and media outlet everywhere in the world will have the debate on their front page or lead story – even if it is boring, and how likely is that? Entertainment sells. It is bringing in the voters and world interest. This show is a work in progress and the final acts have not yet been written.

The author is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.

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