Our BBQ-loving Englishman Is Actually an Educated Student of Politics. Who Knew?

Categories: Elections

obama romney via westword.jpg
Photos by Eric Gruneisen and Brandon Marshall, courtesy of Denver Westword.
Turns out or resident English guy, Gavin Cleaver, who drenches himself in barbecue sauce and smoke for us over on City of Ate, is actually like a doctor. In politics. University trained and the author of a forthcoming book on political ethics. We did not know that ... both that he was a Ph.D. or that there is such thing as "political ethics." Anyway, he not only likes 'Merica's smoked slabs of beef, he likes our elections too. There's gotta be a connection there. (If you want to read more of his political stuff, check this out.

That's right America. I can't even vote in your country. I hail from a land where we're still upset that you wasted all that perfectly good tea, where American elections dominate the media the same way they do here, where when elections are tied we muddle through it and create a Franken-party out of many different opposing parties because A) we recognize there are more than two options on the political spectrum and B) we don't like courts as much as you guys. A place where politics is frankly so boring that nobody cares about it. This is the land in which I completed my eight years studying politics at college, and now I am briefly going to talk to you about how the rest of the world feels.

When was the last time you heard about European elections? Exactly. Why are American elections such big news around the world? Two reasons. First, if any country is going to stick a pin in a map and then invade that country, it's America. Your military budget is larger than those of China, Russia, the UK, France and Japan put together. Frankly, we're all terrified (except Putin. Putin doesn't scare). I can see how that policy is working for you.
Second, American election season is political fireworks popping left, right, and center (the pun there is intended). There's nothing outside the U.S. that can compare. It's such theater, such drama, and it is so ridiculous that I can't look away. It's like the Honey Boo-Boo of elections, if you will. Some elections have almost toxic levels of comedy gold (Mugabe's re-election campaign in Zimbabwe, with his killer slogan "Vote For The Fist" and a greater than 100 percent voter turnout), some elections are a complete farce (Belgium recently snatching the record for "Most Time Without Actual Government" from that center of democracy, Cambodia), but your election is like a car-crash of extremism, patriotism, abstract nouns and empty rhetoric.

Let's take "freedom" as an example. There are several ways to interpret the basic concept of freedom, as any political academic will tell you. I could be free from government interference; I could be free from the demands of other individuals; I could be free from poverty; or I could be free to live as I choose aside from moral concerns over the appropriateness of my behavior. No-one's made the appropriate distinction between positive and negative freedom, because to do so we'd have to start thinking about what freedom actually is. What we essentially have during U.S. election season is two sides claiming that the way they would run the country is the best approximation of freedom, or hope, or liberty or whatever abstract noun is currently in vogue. The most popular policy espoused by a candidate during election season is "THIS GUY! AMIRITE!" The level of childish points-scoring and negative coverage of the opposition is amazing, to the point where, without fail, an advert for Romney will start with the word Obama, and an advert for Obama will start with the word Romney.

In a roundabout way, this brings me to my point. The constant need to be at the forefront of the public's mind is astonishing. The theater involved plays right into the media's hands, so that they can present the campaign as a dramatic clash of political titans who are furious with each other, and in turn the candidates will become more aggressive and less cohesive on policy, because they know that a five second clip of one of them calling the other one a silly name is going to get a lot more media attention than an explanation of how green energy can create jobs, or how a rise in taxes is bad for small businesses. It's a vicious circle. The candidates need to be visible in the media more than their competitor, but the media (especially social media and interaction) isn't set up to handle cogent political debate properly. It just doesn't come across well. What do you remember from the debates? Is it the cogent basis of policy, or comments about binders, Big Bird and bayonets?

The whole time this is happening, a simply titanic amount of money is being thrown away on getting the candidates good media coverage, money that could be spent in much better ways in a still-struggling global economy than being used to tell me that Obama doesn't understand what America stands for, or that Romney dislikes poor people and is wealthy. $20 a vote, America. $20 a vote. That's the level of spending by the parties we're talking about. There must be a better way to run this.

And I hope they never find one. Because tonight, I'll be there, beer and popcorn in hand, for my first night not having to stay up until 4 a.m. to find out who's won the U.S. election, and I will spend my time switching between inherently biased television broadcasts just to see how they are spinning the glorious victory/terrible, generation-ruining disaster unfolding in front of them. It will be gloriously entertaining in a way that no other election can hope to be. I am psyched.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
RTGolden1 topcommenter

As a consolation to you, only Americans get their knickers in a wad over the House of Windsor more than the British do.


As for your other points, Britain had their go at the the dart-toss world domination game.  Made a good run at it, too.  Now it's our turn.  Sit back and enjoy the show.  European elections wouldn't make a blip on the radar here.  Why? Because to most of the US, Europe doesn't matter.  It's a place full of bizarre languages and borders and funny looking money.  It's a place to go on vacation or follow U2 tours.  To many older Americans, Europe is a place filled with mud, Germans and the blood of their brothers in arms.  To me, Europe where France is at, which is a good thing, except for the French.  Europe would be ideal if we could ship the French somewhere they're needed and would fit in, like Florida.


We love our elections here.  We love our political parties, even the ones we hate.  We would love that the Europeans make fun of us and think we all want to be John Wayne, except none of can understand a damn word Europeans are saying.  (If you think I'm kidding, I actually had someone tell me that they enjoyed the London Olympics, but they "didn't speak English very good over there." direct quote).  We love our quirky liberals, our mouth-breathing conservatives, our oh-so persecuted bohemians ("I eschew all materialism, except for I Pads, I phones and Starbucks!!").  We love that, around the world, people think we eat nails and shit barbed wire.  And we love to sling political mud.  Hell, we even invent mud to sling in the political off-season, just to stay in shape for the elections.  And, while we have our share of inbred, ignorant, genetic freaks in our country, we don't have to take no lip from a food critic who hails from a country with collective dentistry so fucked up they can eat corn on the cob through a picket fence!


By the way, any chance you'll be sharing the beer and popcorn?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Well ... at least we get to choose our monarch instead of listening to some ridiculous tale of swords being pulled from rocks or some watery tart arising out of ponds to bestow authority upon some lucky bloke and then what is this "My God, My Right" stuff? ... don't you think that is just a tad egotistical ... and then if George III had just bothered to listen to us instead of treating us as his personal chattels, we would in all probability be singing "God Save the Queen" instead of "My Country Tis of Thee" ...


Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how'd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.


Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.


Oh but if I went 'round sayin' I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away.


Any way, nice write up ...

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

WOW, so ask and i shall recieve.  Thanks Gavin, I enjoyed this one, you've nailed it.  Oh and no, you wont have to wait till 4 am, you may have to wait 2 weeks though since OH seems to be a clusterfuck or royal proportions with its absentee ballot policy this year.  I suppose that'd be an awesome two week bender for ya, beer and popcorn waiting for the results


"... a simply titanic amount of money is being thrown away on getting the candidates good media coverage..."


Roughly about what Americans spend on yogurt in a year.



I figure $20/vote is pretty cheap, considering the stakes.  I long for the day when gov't is so small and insignificant that it doesn't matter which band of crooks occupy the White House and Congress.


 @RTGolden1 I crown you "King Sweeping Generalization". And who can't eat corn on the cob through a picket fence? The gaps between the fence posts are really large. I could fit my whole arm through there, never mind delicious corn.


I drank all the beer. Sorry.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault