U.S. presidential elections seem to get longer every cycle. A president is hardly moved into the White House now before one or both major political parties start looking for their next candidates.
The 2012 vote now seems like a tired TV show late in its run. We know all the characters and we pretty much know the script, but somehow new episodes still come out week after week. CNN has to fill 24 hours of airtime every day, after all.
To be fair, American elections can be entertaining, even thrilling. As Canadians, we get to enjoy all the fun of the presidential campaign without being directly affected by the result.
Because of this ringside seating, earlier this year we had an entire week when the biggest political issue in the most powerful country on earth was that Mitt Romney strapped his dog to the roof of his car on road trips and that Barack Obama had once eaten dog meat — and Americans tried to decide which of these two offences constituted the greater act of animal cruelty.
Americans seem to think these quadrennial political events constitute a kind of democracy and that they truly have a say in what happens to their country. In truth, only a handful of swing states like Ohio can actually alter the outcome of a national election, so voters who live in Texas or New York may as well stay home.
Besides, the supposed choice offered voters is non-existent in most ways. Both major parties have become more conservative over the last few decades and today only offer voters a centre-right and a far-right option. (There are of course other candidates out there, ones who are far more representative of the American mainstream than Obama or Romney, but good luck catching a glimpse of them on TV.)
Nevertheless, each election becomes another all-or-nothing, life-and-death struggle for the very soul of the nation. There’s a great villain and a brave hero, and the campaign is a choice between ruin and salvation. And because everything in America has to be taken to the point of absurdity, you can now show the world whose side you’re on by getting your 7-Eleven coffee in either a Romney or an Obama cup. (The plain variety are known as non-partisan cups.)
But what concerns me isn’t Americans’ attitudes about their election, but ours. Canadians get a ringside view of the whole messy affair every four years and, unfortunately, many of us absorb the same good-versus-evil mentality that Americans have accepted. And because Canadians are generally more left-leaning than Americans, that means a lot of people have become mindless Obama zombies who think Mitt Romney will destroy the planet if given the chance.
A lot of people, myself included, were swept up in the historic 2008 election and were heavily invested in Obama’s victory. As it turns out, he’s just another shitty politician who has done some decent things and a lot of awful things in office. Romney might be slightly less or slightly more shitty than Obama, but the shit quotient will remain relatively stable.
Yet I’ve been privy to a lot of heated discussion lately about how stupid and evil Romney is and how Obama is so clearly the better choice and if only those dumb Americans would realize it already, like, c’mon, he totally went on Jimmy Fallon once and slow-jammed the news while Romney was all, like, dining on the bones of poor people, and can you even believe how much Romney just lies all the time? Ugh!!!
What bothers me most about the Obama cheerleading isn’t just that the American presidential election won’t directly affect us in Canada; it’s the amount of wishful thinking and excuse-making that goes on to defend Obama (the leader of another country), while the same leniency would never be afforded another politician.
Guantanamo Bay still open? That’s because evil Republicans blocked its closure.
The health care law being nothing like the universal health care Democrats have wanted for the last 40 years? Well, it’s better than nothing.
Not doing anything to clean up the abuses of Wall Street, even after bankers nearly destroyed the global economy? Just give him four more years.
Killing hundreds of innocent people around the world in secret drone strikes? Yeah, but at least it’s not George Bush!
Meanwhile, anything Romney says or does is put down to his innate stupidity or cruelty, because Republicans.
To all my politically-engaged colleagues at university: bashing Romney is neither funny nor original, and just because you watch The Daily Show doesn’t mean you’re any more informed than the average American.
We all know that a lot of Republicans believe in some weird shit, but the other guys aren’t that much better when they actually run things. If the Democrats existed in Canada, they would be to the right of Stephen Harper on most issues, and I don’t see Harper enjoying the 65 per cent approval that Canadians afford Obama. Just give it a break already.