Monday, January 07, 2008

Imprecision '08: The Road to the Correction

The American Presidential race sure is heating up... In Britain.

Between last week's Iowa Caucus and this week's New Hampshire primary, the election has been the top story on the news every morning. So prominent is the coverage that on Saturday, a British guest who was at our place for brunch was able to engage in a thoughtful conversation about Barack Obama's prospects and what a cultural shift this would represent for America. This particular brunch guest is 11 years old.

To any Americans reading this, it goes without saying that our electoral system is arcane and utterly confusing. But what must foreigners think? In this post-2000 age, when even the WINNER of the election doesn't actually win, then you can pretty much forget trying to explain the Iowa Caucus.

Understandably, the British press doesn't have the time to get into this level of detail, so what we end up with is just the most basic-level horse race style coverage. And it is completely misinformed. Over the past week, I have had to patiently explain to people that no, in fact, Obama didn’t really “win a big election in Iowa” and that the race for the White House is not actually “down to a woman versus a black man.”

But you can’t blame people for being interested. In these globalized times, the American presidential election arguably has as much impact on British people’s lives as their own political races do. It must be incredibly frustrating to them that they have to sit back and watch while other people are put in charge of making the decisions that affect the collective fate of Britons. (A frustration that long-time blog readers may remember being exemplified by this headline.)

So I will continue to politely explain whatever I can about the process when people ask -- because the concept of “civic duty” strangely takes on added weight when you have the eyes of disenfranchised foreigners watching.

But man, it’s going to be a long 11 months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apropos of very little in your article, I think it would be a good idea if Gordon Brown and George W Bush swapped jobs for a week. Their respective trials and tribulations should be filmed and broadcast as a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Alex should narrate both.