She may just be a few years old but like me she is tired of the ‘Bronco Bama’ and ‘Mitt Romney’ Don’t get me wrong the USA remains the most important country in the world. The policies it pursues have an impact on all our lives, and while we have no say in who America votes for, who they vote for matters to us all.
The BBC it seems is keen to let us know they know it matters and are deluging us with election reports fro the USA, we never get the same level of reports from France, Germany, India or any of the other important democracies, plus the US elections have peculiarities that make the coverage we receive somewhat unappealing.
One problem with the US elections is the election cycle is so drawn out. It is somewhat understandable given the historical context of the need for then young democracy to engage a dispersed rural population across a huge country in choosing candidates for the Presidential election, but it is still interminably long.
The first primary was the Republican Primary back in Iowa on Jan 3rd, 2012. This was also the point at which the elections made their way into the BBC’s news cycle and this though, initially occasional and sporadic quickly grew in breadth.
From the news coverage we learnt about Herman Cain’s unexpected rise to popularity and spectacular downfall. We saw the failed attempt by the comeback kid Newt Gringrich. We wondered if Americans would really put forward Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann as a Presidential candidate, and we watched as a resurgent Mitt Romney eventually dispatched rival Rick Santorum. That was just the the Republican Primaries and all this had gone on for six months, played out on BBCs news bulletins.
We should actually count ourselves lucky as the Democratic party were simply going to re-endorse President Obama as their candidate or it would have been twice as much. Notwithstanding, all this was essentially an under-card compared to the main event – The Presidential Election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and without skipping a beat we were plunged, coverage-wise, straight into this.
This is where we get on to the second problem. The American electorate is so finely divided between the two main parties, the Republican and Democratic party. This means that they are really only a minority of votes in comparison to the voting population that are actually up for grabs. To win the hearts and minds of these voters both parties indulge in negative campaigning to a degree that is unheard of this side of the Atlantic.
An infamous example of this is the Willie Horton Ad from the 1988 election. You just can’t imagine Cameron or Miliband putting out an ad like this, or being allowed to.
What this means ultimately is that the fear of making a mistake is probably the biggest fear of both candidates, out go any bold policy statements, out go any principle stances on significant issues, what you get instead is political shadow boxing. Each candidate dancing cleverly around the issues for fear that anything too bold can be seized upon and turned into a negative ad.
So with no substantial policies being debated, with no real insight into what direction America will head after the election, what is the coverage by the BBC giving us. Regurgitation of endless election polls and ”polls of polls’, inane vox pop chatter,and political navel gazing by an assortment of pundits.
Over the next few days it is only going to get worse. The BBC have mobilised a whole team of correspondents in to fan across America and they deployment has to be justified by increased coverage
Jonny Dymond (Boston)
Paul Adams (Chicago)
Alastair Leithead (Las Vegas)
Rajesh Mirchandani (Colorado Springs)
Laura Trevelyan (Miami)
Ian Pannell (Boston)
Philippa Thomas (Chicago)
Jon Sopel (Richmond, Virginia)
Michelle Fleury (New York)
Clive Myrie (Cleveland)
One wonders what are they going to be reporting on ?