So, America has finally decided, and frankly I'm exhausted. You see, like an idiot, I stayed up all night channel-hopping between BBC, ITV, Sky and CNN, in the desperate hunt for thrilling revelations about Obama v Romney. Mostly, I found myself blearily squinting at the revolving carousel of presenters, pundits and pollsters, desperately trying to tell them apart. A few stood out; CNN's white-bearded anchor is the rather brilliantly-named Wolf Blitzer - the closest a human can get to personifying a Steven Seagal movie - and he excitedly wittered on about how CNN had turned the Empire State Building into a giant election-o-meter thingie, leaving me bitterly disappointed when King Kong failed to appear at the top, wearing an 'I Love Mitt' t-shirt and demanding an Ohio recount.
Having recently spent a shedload of cash on lawyers, the BBC lacked the same budget, but their long-suffering CGI wrangler, Jeremy Vine, nevertheless found himself being menaced by a huge floating pie chart, while standing in what appeared to be the gladiatorial backdrop to Mortal Kombat. One gets the feeling Vine spends his days in the Tron mainframe, desperately trying to do his radio show while batting off an army of digital gladiators. Meanwhile, ITV's Romilly Weeks revealed herself to possess astoundingly vertiginous cheekbones, the kind you might like to ski down if you were a middle class beetle, and Sky News elected to broadcast from a clearly chilly Chicago, where the ghost of every spoken syllable lingered coolly in the air around mouths and noses.
As a chronic insomniac used to staying up for days at a time, my fatigue levels are normally unproblematic, but frankly I feel like I've spent the past bajillion years watching Obama and Romney slug it out in an interminably overblown grudge match. Why did I sit through it all? I'm not entirely sure - sometimes it's quite tempting to imagine yourself watching a Manichean duel to the death between celestial opposites; a struggle between good and evil for control of the universe, with you as the gift-wrapped trophy, tied to a stake, waiting to see who will possess your soul. In this case, the rhetoric from both sides alluded to pretty much that. If you believed the extremists, Mitt Romney was out to destroy women, and Barack Obama was the Muslim lovechild of Stalin and Hitler - if only they could have run a small B&B together, it's got all the hallmarks of a brilliant sitcom...
Of course, this is inherently ridiculous. But, then again, so was an electoral season that cost $6 billion in total, (actually a mere $2.5 billion for the Presidential race) and allowed anonymous Super PAC investors to launch their own proxy wars with billboards and TV adverts, promoting the candidate they wanted to win. Indeed, per capita, the average American voter had 23 times as much money spent on them as in the UK, where total election costs barely scrape over £30 million - that's not even enough to buy a headless Fernando Torres, which ironically is exactly what Chelsea managed to do.
In American politics, more so than ever, the size of your friends' wallets determines how much of an influence you can have over voters. If you want to be the Leader of the Free World, nothing comes for free. This is effectively hawking democracy to the highest bidder, which is pretty cynical, but it also allows a rather curious thing to happen - non-American corporations and donors can also help shape the outcome of an election because, under the current rules, the money doesn't have to come from within the 50 states. Indeed, of the top 50 foreign PACs who chucked money at their preferred candidate, 14 were based in the UK.
So, this Presidential result was in small part funded by non-Americans who used their financial clout to push their agenda upon the American people. But before you Mitt Romney fans burn down the headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline in outrage, let me ask a redundant, but nevertheless intriguing, question - is outside influence on American elections something to be encouraged?
After all, if the President really is the leader of the free WORLD, then surely we, the world, are owed some sort of say? American rhetoric has often flaunted its position as a global police force, but that in itself implies an implicit understanding of consent by the World to being policed. Victory for President Obama does not just simply shape the future of US domestic policy, but will also affect the precariously-balanced Middle-East and the gravity of silent aggression from Putin's Russia. So - yes, I'm tired, but go with me on this - what would the result have been if a theoretical 51st state, populated solely by emissaries from the 190-odd countries of the world, had been allowed to vote?
In a poll released last week by YouGov, 91% of Brits would have cast their vote for Barack Obama, and indeed the majority of the world would have opted for Obama if they'd had the chance. This may seem pretty emphatic... and actually it really is - but a Gallup poll of global leadership, drawn from 130 sample countries, only polled a 49% approval rating for the USA - the world may admire the man, but they demand a lot better from the nation. Perhaps if we'd had our own satellite state, floating just off the coast of Florida, we might have been able to explain why we're not that impressed? (That said, it's also probably we might have bunked off and gone to Disneyworld instead... we hypothetical members of the 51st state are fickle children at heart.)
In fairness, this 49% approval rating was an impressive 15% higher than it had been under President George W Bush, but it had stalled since 2010. Obama may have rehabilitated the USA's image overseas, but as comebacks go it was hardly the national equivalent of Robert Downey Jnr metamorphosing from incarcerated drug addict to heroic leading man. Indeed, the world currently looks at America the same way America is currently looking at Kristen Stewart - they sort of liked her in that thing she did with the vampires and whatnot, but they also think she's a tool for cheating on RPatz. Of course, there was one country in particular which would have voted for Romney if given the chance - Pakistan.
It's easy to be stupid and facetious about these sorts of things... so I will! In 1776, America was founded as a republic upon the popular mantra 'no taxation without representation.' Well, Pakistan might have argued 'no predator drone strikes without representation'. I am, of course, wearing my ill-fitting satirist's hat here, but it's genuinely vital to consider the impact that this American election will have upon lives around the globe. In 2008, President Obama was given a mandate by his people to defend their interests; via legal loopholes, he interpreted that as launching missiles into built-up areas whenever he saw fit. The Pakistani government had almost no choice in the matter, yet oddly these were not considered acts of war. Pakistan was a sovereign punch-bag unable to do anything except clear away the rubble and bury the dead.
Fighting terrorism is a worthy goal, and one day Obama's policy may prove wise in retrospect, but here is a clear example of how the American electorate affect global politics with their choices - Obama will likely continue his targeted-killing of terrorists for another 4 years. Ironically, the third Presidential debate revealed Romney to also be a card-carrying members of the drone club, so Pakistan probably should have been blowing up its own towns for the past month, just to get the inevitable over with on their own terms...
Despite the fact my house wasn't under threat from airborne explosives (mostly because I can't afford a house - thanks Sub-Prime, you loser!), I was still lured into the election coverage by the very real sense that I had something personal at stake. I'm fascinated by the concept of America; I love its history and its republican ideals - so it's been hugely disappointing watching the Founding Fathers' progressive experiment being visibly torn down the middle, with one side wanting to continue that progression, and the other trying to do a Marty McFly and jump back several decades in time. I am no fan of supply-side economics, but I understand there are sound reasons for tackling the debt crisis. However, rhetoric about legislating for women's bodies and attempting to drift towards a constitutional theocracy made me howl in furious disbelief. You're meant to be better than the rest of us, America... you're meant to be a "more perfect union".
Thankfully, it seems last night's electoral shenanigans have dragged America back towards the light side of the Force, with it confidently shouting "talk to the hand" to two 'legitimate rape' blunderers, and electing its first publicly gay senator. Sarah Palin, the increasingly cartoonish Tea Party doyenne, called the Republican performance "a disappointment", and that's just wonderful music to my exhausted ears. However, the temporary jubilation at seeing President Obama retain his position still does little to temper my genuine outrage at the depths to which this election cycle sunk.
What really frustrated me - more than the absurdity of campaign finances, or the spiteful aggression from both sides in attack ads - was the unprecedented war on facts. If you're going to be nasty, at least get your story right. Though the Democrats were no saints, the Republicans in particular seemed hell-bent on distorting the truth at almost every turn, as if they had come home to catch their wives cavorting in bed with the abstract concept of accuracy. We had idiotic statements about sexual assault (women don't get pregnant from rape, because vaginas are magical), incessant 'birther' allegations by Donald 'punchline' Trump, and Mitt Romney's impressively impressionistic definition of economic 'facts'. These I prefer to call 'ficts', as they were assertions that sounded convincing but, like Schrodinger's Cat, immediately withered and died upon the slightest observation. Perhaps his most audacious fib was to state: "The president's put it in place almost as much public debt as all prior presidents combined." The speediest of Google searches revealed George W. Bush alone racked up about $4.9 trillion, which was hardly dwarfed by Obama's $5 trillion. How did he get away with this stuff?!
Depressingly, the American media allowed it to happen. When the fate of the global economy, women's reproductive rights, global warming, the lives of Pakistani children, and the Syrian revolution were at stake, it was science, reason, data and subtly that were chucked out of the window, to be replaced by gut instincts, common sense truthiness, ideological propaganda, and a glistening line-up of bellowing fools. Sadly, journalists were slow at times to fact-check mistruths, often preferring to analyse performance and tone over the meaning of the rhetoric being vomited in their direction. Meanwhile, cable channels abandoned objectivity entirely, with Fox News embarking on an absurd quest to embody the right-wing version of Pravda. As things became desperate, and Romney clawed his way back into the race, both sides began to spew forth a torrent of bullshit, desperate to woo the independent voters and the swing states to their side. Never had the words of Thomas Jefferson gone so unheeded:
"The information of the people at large can alone make them the safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom."
Though it made me spasmodically flail around in feral outrage at the undignified crassness of it all, none of this was surprising. US politics is built on passionate debate - the Founding Fathers argued like bickering siblings about basically everything, and half the policy debates we heard in 2012 were just continuations of an ideological bun-fight between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that happened when people thought powdered wigs were cool, and Napoleon Bonaparte was an up-and-coming scamp. But the fervent debate wasn't the problem - ideological war between rival parties is a good thing, provided the ammunition is genuine. What upset me was that both sides were happy to lie to the electorate, as if it was an ok thing to do. It wasn't... and now the fate of America, and maybe the world, has been decided upon these wobbly fictions. Even if you're glad of the end result (which I most definitely am), that's still no way to run a democracy. Lessons must be learned before 2016, but I'm willing to bet my vital organs that they aren't.
However, it's now 5am, and time to drag my sorry carcass to bed, before I pass out, face down on the floor. I apologise if this blog is an endless cavalcade of bullshit. I guess if you consume it for long enough, you start to excrete it yourself.