It must be exhausting, flying around to five election rallies in one day, chuntering at the podium and trying to remember where exactly you are. Not to mention the weather: the strong sun here, the rain or snow flurries there and “a lotta wind” everywhere. The latter messes worryingly with the hair.
Exhausting? Piffle. What’s exhausting is watching three all-news channels plus the regular network Sunday political chat shows, and seeing the feverish anticipation, arguing, propaganda and bewildering bafflegab about polls, polls, polls. Also, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania! Not to mention the watching of blithering idiots presented as experts across the U.S. TV universe.
What unfolded on the weekend amounted to delirium. Exhaustion has set in and with it a very particular kind of anxiety. What if all the polls are wrong? And then, "What happens next?” Is it litigation in the courts, riots in the streets? Will this election battle go on and on and on, until even Wolf Blitzer admits he can’t take it anymore? Possibly.
Take note that on Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, on ABC, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie stated baldly, “If it’s Pennsylvania and it’s close, be guaranteed there’s going to be litigation. The Supreme Court.” And with that, the panel discussion descended into wild crosstalk.
There isn’t much crosstalk on Fox News. It’s more a matter of “Uno duce, una voce.” (“One leader, one voice,” a phrase once popular in Italy, Ireland and other places where leaders of all stripes make speeches from a balcony.) I mean, Sean Hannity is really going all out for salesman-of-the-month from the Trump campaign.
The other night, Tucker Carlson spent ages talking with noted Canadian absurdist Mark Steyn about the pronunciation of Kamala Harris’s name. Hey, those two boys had a good laugh. Carlson also did a mindboggling rant about the mainstream media ignoring the “explosive” allegations against Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, revealed in his interview with that man of mystery, Tony Bobulinski. “The media have suppressed the story, but it’s real and it matters. Voters have a right to know the details,” he said forcefully. But, you know, it’s not just the mainstream media that Carlson is up against. It’s the UPS courier company, which allegedly “lost” some “explosive” documents sent to Carlson.
After Carlson, along came Hannity, who spent 11 minutes on Biden. He said Biden is “manipulated by a far-left cabal.” He called Biden “half a corpse.” Then, without a hint of irony, he introduced Newt Gingrich, who is definitely no spring chicken. Gingrich made the observation that Donald Trump versus Biden is a bear versus a bunny rabbit. Further, he made the suggestion that Twitter has “about a dozen Communist Chinese” manipulating the trending algorithm, “like they do in China.” Well it’s a darn good thing for those Communist Chinese that they don’t get their instructions sent by UPS courier.
That Fox News pundits act as if they’re the paid media hoochies for the Trump campaign is hardly a surprise. It’s just they’re more obsequious and obvious in these last frantic, delirious days.
Meanwhile on CNN, Jake Tapper now hosts his State of the Union show on Sundays with the demeanour of a man who sucks stones in his mouth to get through it all. Like that character in Samuel Beckett’s Molloy. “What we need to do now is keep going,” he said gravely on Sunday, which has a distinctly Beckett-ian ring to it.
Then he girded himself for a joint interview with the governors of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That focused depressingly on voter suppression, court cases about ballot counting, and the possibility of violence on, or after, election day. “Hoping for peaceful and successful election days for all three of you and your great states and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he concluded, which was about as cheery as Sunday got on CNN.
There were times on the weekend when Fox News was simply airing one Trump rally after another, while MSNBC was airing a special report from inside the intensive-care unit at a hospital in Idaho that was almost overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and, at the same time, CNN was airing a report about people being evicted from their homes because COVID-19 has prevented them from earning enough to pay the rent. You watch all that and wonder, “Who would want to be an American right now?”
Still, there’s the sheer vigour of U.S. culture, a vigour made extreme in the final days of this election. Late last week on Late Night With Seth Meyers, the host used his A Closer Look segment to issue a scathing critique of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s input into a decision on counting mailed-in ballots in Wisconsin. Meyers quoted Kavanaugh and described his written opinion as “filled with lazy errors” and “sloppy.”
Meyers then swore directly at new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. He ridiculed her for appearing at a “campaign-like event” beside Trump. He informed Barrett that “once you’ve shared a balcony with a Roger Ailes apologist and someone who is on the fence about whether a plot to kidnap a governor is a good or bad thing, you can ... ” Well, he then swore at her in words that can’t be printed in a newspaper. This, note you, was a comic/talk-show host’s opening on network TV.
Anything is allowable now, which is both exhausting and yet strangely invigorating. This roller-coaster ride of giddy delirium may be “a lotta wind,” but it sure is gripping. Bring on Tuesday night.
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