I’m an American politics addict. I stay up all night watching the presidential election results – for several nights during the first George W Bush one (all those ‘hanging chads’); try and catch the rallies – exhausting in Trump’s case; and follow as much of the commentary as I can from over here in Sweden. I enjoy it all thoroughly, albeit guiltily. One reason may be that I virtually ‘majored’ in US history as an undergraduate – three courses out of eight; another is that I have lived in America for a significant number of years. So I know the rules. Of course I follow British politics just as avidly, but far less pleasurably. That’s because I have more invested in them. I’m also affected by Swedish politics; but I’m afraid I find those rather dull. They’re much politer and more reasonable than either the Americans’ or the Brits’. Even their neo-Fascists look harmless, even if they really aren’t.
Maybe it’s this that really explains my obsession with American elections. As well as affecting me less – less immediately at any rate – they are far more vivid than ours. In fact they are stranger and more spectacular than most fiction. I’ve often wondered whether they’re not, in fact, scripted by Hollywood film writers. Watching the elections on TV is better than watching a movie; even a movie featuring American politics. I can’t wait to get my first shot on the night of November 3, lying on our sofa with a beer and some wholesome American food within arm’s reach – hamburgers, grits, toasted marshmallows, and the shrivelled up streaks of fat they call bacon. The perfect evening; so long as one isn’t an American.
But now I don’t need to wait until then. The scriptwriters have been brilliant in conjuring up unlikely pre-election scenarios for us: Hitler-type rallies, conspiracy theories to satisfy even the craziest tin foil hat wearer, a presidential ‘debate’ that resembled an infantile spat, lies and ‘fake news’, and of course the continual nonsense pouring from ‘Christian’ conservatives, white racists, neo-Nazis and of course Trump himself, in the run-up.
And now this! Which Hollywood screen-writer was it that came up with idea of striking the President down with a potentially fatal disease that he had always played down – ‘hoist him with his own petard’, you might say – just a month before the election? Give that person an Oscar!
But first let’s see how it plays out. Already the op-ed writers are at work predicting the effect on both sides in the election, of Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, whether he dies (who will take over, as President and as candidate?), or survives it heroically, like Boris did. Following closely in their tracks there are the sceptics, tin-hatted or not, wondering – just wondering – if this isn’t all a conspiracy, a trick to gain sympathy and martyr-status for Trump; or, alternatively, a Democratic plot to put him out of the race.
I’m afraid my undergraduate expertise and personal experience of that great but deeply troubled nation can’t provide any answers to that; or even an inspired guess. That’s frustrating; but it makes the ‘thriller’ aspect of the whole drama far more exciting: a ‘cliff-hanger’ in the best Hollywood tradition. I’ll be hogging that couch in front of the TV – or, more likely, my computer, for American news sources, like the New York Times, the Washington Post and of course the Onion – for another month at least. (More if a beaten Trump refuses to let go.)
So, my American friends and followers: send me over some grits. We can’t get them here. (I’m not altogether surprised.)