Almost everyone I spoke to in the run up to the US elections said they would watch the results Tuesday night. I am not referring to American expats here in Canada and other parts of the world… but Canadians, Indians, Australians, and any global citizen with a pulse on world news.
Ironically, those pledging to put everything else aside appeared to be as invested in the outcome as Americans. May be even more than they wanted us to be, given how a certain person in the White House has been the inspiration for all kinds of jokes for the past four years.
I always attributed my sustained interest in the US polls to having lived there during the contentious Bush-Gore election in 2000. But a social gathering I attended in Toronto during the 2004 Bush vs Kerry leadership race revealed that many Canadians were just as intrigued by the political drama down south. To my surprise, the hosts even included a party game referencing the political event to encourage their guests to mingle. I found this preoccupation with another country’s politics to be very odd at that time.
Interestingly, US politics featured in another party game two years ago. This time it was about the comic relief Trump provided via television news on a daily basis.
Over the past 16 years, I have come to terms with Canadians finding the US presidential elections more entertaining (or ridiculous) than the political shenanigans that take place here. Yet I must give Donald Trump due credit for the increased interest.
Although this election may remind some of the Bush-Gore contest, the current scenario doesn’t compare on any level. For one, Gore graciously conceded, and this is something that Trump doesn’t intend to do.
And so it is the spectacle that he has made of himself, and not the influence the US assumes it exerts on the rest of the world, that kept us glued to our television sets into the wee hours of Wednesday. For instance, some friends in India stayed up all night not wanting to miss out on any dramatic outbursts from the president.
Over the past four years most of my American friends have side stepped any references to their president. In fact, they have maintained a quiet dignity that the White House seems to have lost. On the flip side, I am tempted to equate their reluctance to comment with the wish that perhaps the silence would make the political nonsense and consequent ridicule all go away.
On Tuesday, social media was on fire with US election jokes. The meme in which Lady Liberty is asking ‘is he gone yet’ got my attention as it appeared to sum up the dominant mood in the country.
For the rest of us it was four years of gaffes from the leader of one of the most powerful democracies. I stopped watching CNN because it could not get past the Trump bashing.
If American image took a beating on the world stage for the way the country responded to the 9/11 terror attack, the Trump presidency redefined the low it would hit. Nothing was impossible in his attempt to do as he pleased in his four years on the throne and then to get four more. And no matter how hard they all tried, they could not get him out.
And while Americans prayed hard that Biden would pull them out of the trenches on Tuesday, non-Americans hung around expecting more drama from the current president and his supporters. He did not disappoint. But the best is yet to come, or the worst from the American perspective.
Bets are still hinging on what steps he will take to stay in the White House despite the outcome, so the nightmare may not have ended yet for Americans looking to take back their dignity. And the rest of us may still have more drama to entertain us.
On a serious note, we might just be on the brink of the world’s biggest democratic nightmare.
Either way we will remain tuned in because of Trump.