It was a long night. The tortilla chips and salsa had been consumed by the time Indiana called and the pretzels had all but gone when New Mexico declared. When California returned 55 to the Electoral College, the Budweiser had run dry and it was time to break out the Jim Beam stashed on top of the kitchen cabinet reserved for special occasions or emergencies.
The BBC seems to really enjoy covering elections and tend to throw extraordinary amounts of resources at them. One can only assume that it was more economical for the BBC to charter an Airbus A380 to convey the correspondents, camera crews, producers, runners, Huw Edwards and David Dimbleby to the swing battleground states and a virtual studio hovering at about 200 feet in front of the White House than it would be to have taken the feed direct from CNN. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty, but the very best of television journalists still had to endure reporting from a bar in Miami as robustly as reporting an election count in a drafty town hall in Walsall at three o`clock in the morning.
Jeremy Vine was employed as a 21st century Peter Snow and was expected to wave his arms about and pretend to be excited by some rather arcane and dubious statistics. Instead of using a basic swingometre, this chap seemed to be trapped in some green screen projection of an infinite and gargantuan Fermat equation that, as last theorems go, was utterly futile. One saving the corporation did make was to engage the Washington based BBC World News America anchor and presumably only had to pay her cab fare. The charming Katty Kay compensated for having a stupid name by combining the looks of Claudia Schiffer with the intellect of Simone de Beauvoir. But, then again, that could be the Budweiser talking.
The BBC`s coverage was obsessed with discussion and statistics regarding the ethnicity and the gender of voting Americans. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty, but can you ever imagine Dimbleby asking a pundit: “what do you make of the surge in support for Miliband from the Romanian vote in Walsall and the solid support of farmer`s wives in Staffordshire for Cameron?” After more meaningless statistics regarding Albanian support for Clegg and UKIP making gains in Handsworth, would Jeremy Vine jump up and down and display another bogus graph?
All the chatter about the changing demographics of African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, college educated single women, under 25`s, Evangelical Christians, Baptists, retired women, Roman Catholics, Jews, Hindus, gun toting rednecks, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, over 55`s, Jews, Mormons, Methodists and even atheists is complete nonsense. The people who voted, or decided not to vote, are Americans. The Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock to escape religious persecution intending to form a society based on freedom and equality. By the 1930`s, Cole Porter in Anything Goes suggests that Plymouth Rock might land on the Pilgrim Fathers.
During the election coverage, pundits from both sides of the Atlantic made constant reference to the principles of democracy and equality but made no comment on the brutal oppression of indigenous people, the violent War of Independence or the need for a civil war to end slavery but did not end racial segregation or deep-seated bigotry. The far right in America seem to have forgotten that they are all derived from immigrant stock and that Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant were Republicans. Romney lost the election because he had to move to the right to appease the lunatic fringe at a bone-headed tea party and then lurch back to the centre in the hope of attracting support from Americans with more than one brain cell. Spending millions on TV ads that told lies didn`t help, nor did his dismissal of 47 per cent of the nation. When his buddies started talking of the will of God, abortion and rape, potential votes were dumped over the side of a ship moored in Boston harbour.
As election night unfolded and with Ohio and Florida deadlocked, it seemed that recounts and legal challenges would be inevitable and no final result likely for at least 24 hours if not weeks longer. Jim Beam was about to be returned unopened to the top of the kitchen cupboard and bed taken when the enchanting Katty Kay reported an email claiming that Jeb Bush had called the Romney camp to inform them that the Florida vote was lost. It was time for some sippin` whiskey. Shortly, tweets from the networks suggested that Ohio might be Democrat and then the sippin` became a gulp. Before any public statement or any confirmation from the networks, a retweet arrived at this computer from the President of the United States. The POTUS was thanking his people for his victory. By the time considerably more than two fingers of red eye had been poured, Ohio called Democrat. The glass was raised, not in celebration but with a huge sigh of relief.
Romney was at least gracious in defeat but many of his supporters were not. The venting of anger ranged from the irrational to the sub-human with first amongst equals being a certain Donald Trump. His outbursts on Twitter were extraordinary claiming that the result was un-democratic and “a disgusting injustice”. He called for a revolution and urged Republicans to march on the White House complaining that the world was laughing at America. Mr Trump has good reason to be angry at the result after paying so much money to buy himself a president. One hopes he kept the receipt.
It would be too easy to suggest that the world is actually laughing at Donald Trump but he and his bonkers patriots need to be taken seriously. Perhaps Obama`s greatest achievement in his first four years as president was not getting shot, something John F Kennedy did not quite manage, and with the crazies now angry, Obama needs to be very careful. In the south, the relationship between the descendents of slave owners and the descendents of slaves in hardly likely to be a bed of roses and the antipathy between poor white people and poor Hispanic people is exploited by the right to divide America. Every few years, wealthy southern states like Texas threaten to cede from the Union and go it alone because they don`t like the president or the Senate or the House of Representatives. None of this is ever taken seriously but after Obama`s re-election there may be elements of Confederates who will wish to see the south rise again. With a God given right to bear arms and carrying enough fire power to inflict mass loss of life in shopping malls and high schools, there are plenty air heads about to overload. Remember that prior to 9/11 the worst terrorist atrocity committed on American soil occurred during the term of a Democrat president. The Oklahoma City bombers were white supremacists who hated their own government.
Bored with waiting for Florida to declare or for Romney to concede, Jim Beam was finally returned to gather dust. After a few hours sleep, breakfast in America was lunchtime in England. Lacking the wherewithal to cook ham, eggs over easy, hash browns and grits, lunch was a bowl of tomato soup. The BBC can now swing its mighty news operation to cover next week`s riveting election of Police and Crime Commissioners. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty but one can only hope that the corporation has not blown its budget and can afford the air fare to fly Katty Kay from Washington to cover the momentous event.
Should she find herself out in the cold in front of Walsall Town Hall, there is a bottle of something nice on top of the kitchen cupboard.