Election Day: 18 Reasons Why It's Good or Bad That We're Almost Done With It
THR's TV critic on Donald Trump and flap-jawed punditry (bad) and "The Daily Show" and Nate Silver's math skills (good).
Well, Election Day is finally here. Wolf Blitzer is in the Situation Room. There will be long and, quite frankly, extremely boring, pedantic and self-aggrandizing stands about how everybody (but the person talking and the channel paying said person to talk) got overly excited about horse-race prognosticating and forgot that the bigger picture was how democracy works, blah, blah, blah.
Just be glad it’s over. And, if you absolutely must have some kind of Bigger Picture hoopla pushed down your throat, just be glad you’re not living in a Third World country, you ingrate. Feel better? America, (insert the F-word here) yeah!
OK, let’s make some lists.
Here are 10 things no one will miss when the election is over:
- Political ads. Political placards. Political banners. Politics.
- People who say they are undecided and basking in the attention like peacocks.
- Watching two people who want to be president (and when you say that word, think of yourself as a 5-year-old who adorably thinks the president is more important than, say, Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett -- a kid who believes the president is the most super-awesome person in the world) argue with each other on live television. That was more rude than presidential. All those debates. Why not put on the wigs and start screaming at each other like the Brits?
- Donald Trump. Seriously, why is (your god here) punishing us with this man? What the hell did we do to deserve to look at his yammering mug as he dupes the media? Make him stop, oh Higher Power.
- Flap-jawed punditry masquerading as fact-based discussion when all it appears to be is ideologically informed guessing.
- Scare tactics -- like, "Vote for Candidate X, and we’re all going to Somalia."
- The insanity of constant appearances in the pop culture milieu by the candidates. For me, it was flipping over to ESPN (by accident, I swear) and seeing Chris Berman trying to pose a serious question to President Obama. Chris Berman! If anything proves that the urge to participate in the study of democracy is a good idea gone bad, that’s it.
- The menacing voices on those political attack ads. Conversely, the saccharine goo in the voice of certain robocalls about your children’s school district or how important a fire department is to your town.
- Probably 1,000 things I can’t remember now because I’ve been watching too much election coverage.
And how about this list of eight things some of us will greatly miss when the election is over:
- The Daily Show. They are doing God’s work there.
- The Colbert Report. See above, with special extra points for Stephen Colbert being so sick of Trump that he almost broke character when he took down the comb-over charlatan and his “October surprise.”
- The magnificent fodder that elections give to stand-up comedians and late-night hosts. True, whichever man wins will still be up for mockery, but it’s not the same as what they say and do on the campaign trail. It’s just all gold for funny people on television.
- The weird but sometimes funny or even admirable efforts of celebrities to get into the mix. I’m not talking endorsements or concerts so much as, say, Sarah Silverman’s PSA about voting fraud or Kid Rock and Sean Penn making a mini-movie about the tolerance of opposite opinions and having it actually be entertaining. Hell, even Saturday Night Live got funnier.
- Nate Silver and the Princeton Election Consortium. Hold your knee-jerk response here for just one minute. Think about what will happen if their predictions of an Obama victory come true. First, it basically puts a shiv in cable news punditry, at least that of the vastly gaseous, heavily biased instapunditry. If statistical models -- Moneyball in the crater of politics -- prove accurate (again), then it automatically reduces “discourse” on certain issues. Fox and MSNBC could blather on all they want and a newly enlightened population could just chime in and say, “Uh, people, all you need to do is look at the mathematical trends of the meta-analysis, so why don’t we just get back to something that can’t be disproven by math, OK?”
- More on the above: For the general public to buy into hardcore statistical analysis instead of single polls or small-sample-size guesses, they’d have to be better at math. What greater achievement could Silver and his ilk provide the United States of America than improving the math skills of the entire nation? Hell, this is stuff that fantasy baseball players have known for years, but still -- America a leader in math? Live the dream!
- One more thing about Silver: Sure, he’s the poster boy of the election even though he’s just the one person the media has glommed onto when there are other stat-heads in the world who understand similar statistical compilations. But here’s the thing, especially if you don’t like Silver: To my knowledge, he didn’t have the foresight to make a documentary about what he does. Additionally, no entity like Discovery or Nat Geo or PBS or even an individual filmmaker put a film crew on Silver 24/7 during this election season. Shame on all of them. Why? Because if he’s right, that’s a hell of a story. And if he’s wrong, it’s a hell of a story with an amazing, even agonizing, emotionally powerful core about one man, his belief system and how free will trumped the numbers. I’d watch either of those.
- I forget what No. 8 was for. Let’s just watch the big boards today, people, and put aside the partisan anger for a bit. Because for better or worse, flaws and all, today’s our day of democracy in action.