Race for the White House: The Greatest Circus on Earth
Four reasons why the world community should stop paying so much attention to the U.S. presidential elections.
- The nations of the world would do themselves a great service if they didn’t pay attention to the US elections.
- The near-interminable, grinding race for the White House has become a severe obstacle in global affairs.
- The global attention to the US presidential elections boosts Americans’ already exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- If Americans had their druthers, the presidential campaign would be a permanent campaign.
- Treating politicians like horses in a race is more fun than covering complex political developments, also easier for the masses to understand.
The nations of the world would do themselves a great favor if they no longer paid anywhere near as much attention to the U.S. presidential elections as has been customary.
Once upon a time, those elections were exciting. They generated a sense of action, hope and dynamism. Amazingly, they did so not just in the United States, but also around much of the globe.
But is the volume of inches of news space and on-air minutes that are devoted to the U.S. presidential race internationally any longer justified?
I believe it isn’t. It is but a quaint habit by now.The near-interminable, grinding race for the White House has degenerated into a self-feeding media circus. Worse, the event has largely become a severe obstacle in global affairs.
As a matter of fact, covering the “horse” race in itself has become an end in itself. It is no longer a means to a larger end – creating a better, more dynamic, more cutting-edge United States. If that were the case, it would deserve a lot of global attention. The rest of the world could learn and benefit from understanding the latest debates up close.
But the only thing that fascinates, in its own way, is the increasingly bizarre turns in U.S. electoral politics.
Under those circumstances, the U.S. presidential season has devolved into the greatest circus on earth. I have four reasons for my assertion:
1. Sense of self-importance
The worldwide attention accorded to the event boosts Americans’ already vastly exaggerated sense of self-importance. It plays to their belief that they are central to anything that happens on earth.
U.S. journalists are only too happy to feed this frenzy. At a time when their industry faces great uncertainty, they love the Presidential election race. Why? Because “covering” the election campaign gives them a reason to feel important about themselves.
2. Global agenda on hold
The worst result of the outsized attention given to the quadrennial U.S. presidential election campaign is that it effectively puts the global agenda on hold.
From a U.S. perspective at least, the world clock basically stops once the outgoing President of the United States has turned into a lame duck (usually right after the mid-term elections of his final term in office).
That is almost two years before the actual next presidential election. Mind-boggling. The opposition will do anything — and I mean anything — to stop the President in his tracks.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the underlying all-American belief is that the world must be put on hold until the new administration is fully staffed up. That could take as much as another year and a half.
3. Reluctance to step up
The attention paid to the race for the White House by other nations, especially those in the Western world, is no longer appropriate.
Above all, it creates a dependency that is as outdated as it is ill-advised. It is high time that other nations step up to the plate themselves.
But stepping up to the plate – rather than waiting for the United States literally to get its act together – requires political will. Unfamiliar and uncomfortable though this may be, the rest of the world better get on with it.
If the 2016 U.S.Presidential campaign has made one thing crystal clear, it is that waiting around for an increasingly dysfunctional and self-absorbed United States to come to its senses is not a very realistic option.
4. Flawed political reporting
If Americans had their druthers, the presidential campaign would be a permanent campaign. The horse race aspect of politics (i.e., the election) is certainly far more entertaining than the actual business of government. In contrast, the actual phase of “governing” is seen as an unpleasant interlude.
Since Americans instinctively don’t like to be governed, they prefer shrinking the period of politicians actually governing to an absolute minimum.
That mindset has already had a highly corrosive effect on life in the United States. Rather than covering the actual issues, choices and options, U.S. political reporting has deteriorated into a breathless stream about who’s up and who’s down.
Treating politicians like horses in a race is not only much more fun than covering complex political developments. It has the added advantage that it is far easier to comprehend for large audiences.
And indeed, the actual process of politics is so mind-numbingly complex – in the United States even more so than in other modern nations – that Americans could be pardoned for wanting to tune out. But that still doesn’t make it an acceptable choice.