Comedian Kate McCabe talks about her vote and what she calls the increasingly impossible politics of change.
The other week, I was invited to BBC HQ here in Manchester to watch the first of the Presidential debates with some other Americans and then discuss our post-debate feelings on the big red couch during BBC Breakfast.
The BBC had located two other Americans local enough to Manchester to sit on the panel. They had trouble finding a Trump supporter living in the UK. In the end, they had to get someone to Skype in from America. This didn’t surprise me. I can’t imagine living with the NHS and then voting Republican. What DID surprise me was that my other ‘in-studio’ countrymen were BOTH voting for third party candidates.
The conventional wisdom in the UK seems to suggest: vote third party locally, major party nationally. Which makes sense. Voting for your more ideologically dreamy parties at a local level gives them a chance to grow, while pulling the lever for a major party at the highest level ensures you’re at least pushing the pendulum over to your preferred side of the spectrum.
That shrewd philosophy should go DOUBLE in America where, though some third party candidates are noble, most are, in practice, distracting spoilers who are unsuitable for our highest office (see Aleppo and Gary Johnson).
Like many Americans (81million of us tuned in to watch the debates), I was nervous. I knew Hillary Clinton was made of tough stuff but I’ve also seen the deeply upsetting victories Donald Trump has scored by playing to the lowest common denominator. Would it matter that Clinton was the better candidate if Trump was giving voters the hollow junk-food demagoguery they craved?
I wondered what the candidates would wear at that first debate. There are calculated strategies available. Candidates typically stick with either red or blue. Sometimes, they’ll wear the opposing party’s colour. That is indeed what happened: Trump wore a steely blue tie and Clinton was in red.
Not the red of the Republican Party, mind you. The red of a bull-fighter’s flag. She came out ready to spear a beast and that she did. After a tremulous start, Clinton was able to goad Trump into showing the worst of himself, while she articulated her superior policy ideas. As a supporter, I was happy with her performance.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel anyone’s mind was changed that night. Not by me nor by the debates.
“Why is it that so many people can’t see the gravity of this situation? Is it because we’re living in the age of reality TV where we’ve learned to vote ironically so the trouble-making idiots stay in the competition longer?”
I know I’m not alone in feeling helpless to change political opinion. Is anyone politically flexible any more? We’ve degraded, as a populace, into political sports fans instead of responsible citizens. We root steadfastly for our ‘teams’ and bask in research bias so as to reinforce our attachments. Is this the result of three decades of the cable news cycle? Who can blame voters for not knowing what’s true when they’ve been force-fed a steady diet of sensationalised opinion broadcasts masquerading as news reports?
Recently in an article for Politico, David Dunning wrote about the impact the Dunning-Kruger effect is having on the polls. “…the key to the Dunning-Kruger Effect is not that unknowledgeable voters are uninformed; it is that they are often misinformed – their heads filled with false data, facts and theories that can lead to misguided conclusions held with tenacious confidence and extreme partisanship, perhaps some that make them nod in agreement with Trump at his rallies.”
Has our nation ever been so full of sophomores? We’re living in a perfect storm of misleading media, fearmongering rhetoric and anti-intellectualism.
In some ways, I can’t blame people. It’s not easy to understand things like international finance, environmental policy and civil rights legislation to a presidential degree and still hold down a job. That’s why we pay politicians to do it for us. That’s their occupation.
We must not break with the tradition of putting the BEST of the best into our political offices. Not just the one that says your triggering words the most. Trump is a bombastic snake-oil salesman with a dictatorial streak. Why is it that so many people can’t see the gravity of this situation? Is it because we’re living in the age of reality TV where we’ve learned to vote ironically so the trouble-making idiots stay in the competition longer?
When watching Strictly Come Dancing, I really want Naga Munchetty to win because I think she’s lovely. But, intellectually, I know she’s not the best dancer in the competition. I know this because I have eyeballs and a brain. Our election isn’t entertainment. It’s an interview for our most important job.
• Provocations to violence
• A return to failed economic policies (trickle-down economics)
• Multiple bankruptcies and tax avoidance
• Homophobia (Trump has vowed to repeal gay marriage rights)
• Admiration of strong-men type leaders with Vladimir Putin, not to mention direct threats to jail his political opponent
• Denial of climate change
• Directly inviting other nations to hack into his competitor’s email, which borderlines on outright treason
• Sexual assault and fraud cases filed against him.
These aren’t historic problems ‘The Donald’ has evolved away from. Most of these are things which were reinforced as recently as that theatre of cruelty we called the second debate. If these things haven’t alienated his base yet, what will?
Not the history-making ZERO endorsements he’s received from America’s news media. (A few who don’t even typically write endorsements have gone out of their way to make an exception for Clinton this year.) Not the 160-strong and climbing numbers of Republican leaders who have come out against him. Not even Glenn Beck (like a Malfoy in The Cursed Child right now) can shake sense into them.
Explaining to British friends who are overwhelmed by what they’ve seen that we’re not a hateful or stupid people has never been easy. But this is just the worst.
“Let’s be clear and real. Gender is a massive issue here. When someone says they don’t like her voice, or her attitude, or her demeanour, or that they just don’t trust her… that’s a woman thing.”
Who ARE these people? For whom do they think they would be Making America Great Again? Even ignoring the evidence that we are actually living in one of history’s most prosperous eras in one of history’s most prosperous countries… say they’re mad about something completely rational, like income disparity. Do they really think Donald Trump is the guy to fix it?
A recent article on the Huffington Post about Trump’s Friars Club roast (as broadcast on Comedy Central) suggested that two of the forbidden topics for the writers were his multiple bankruptcies and his wealth. No roaster was allowed to imply that Trump was NOT as wealthy as he claims.
Of course he wants to protect this most important aspect of his mythology. He’s not good looking, he’s not smart, he’s not a good speaker, and he’s not a philanthropist. If he’s not good at being rich, what’s he got going for him? Not political expertise, that’s evident.
His lack of understanding about how government works was highlighted by his incessant badgering of Clinton in the first and second debate – asking her how come SHE ALONE in her time as Senator and Secretary of State hadn’t stopped ISIS or changed the tax code to make more sense.
But back to the person I AM voting for. Clinton’s ‘likeability’ had long worried me. When Sanders announced his candidacy for the nomination, it gave me cause for concern, not because I disliked Bernie. To the contrary, I would have happily voted for him. It worried me because it became clear that by the end of the primary, Clinton would have shed supporters. I get why progressives dig his résumé and Larry David-esque no nonsense persona.
Of course, we were always going to be dealing with more than just the people peeling away for Sanders. The people who hate Hillary Clinton are legion. Sometimes it’s for reasons pushed by the right wing which have no connection to truth. Other times they can’t explain their feelings. They just know it in their bones.
I remember a conversation with a friend back in the mid 90s, probably around the time Clinton was pushing for healthcare reform. I was about 15 and my friend was 17.
“I hate Hillary,” she said.
“Why do you hate her?” I asked.
“Because she’s a bitch.”
“Why is she a bitch?”
“Because I hate her.”
You see the problem here.
Why her more than ANY other candidate? Let’s be clear and real. Gender is a massive issue here. When someone says they don’t like her voice, or her attitude, or her demeanour, or that they just don’t trust her… that’s a woman thing. So, if you’ve ever said any of those things about Clinton and you DON’T cop to being a misogynist, take a deeper look.
“Would it matter that Clinton was the better candidate if Trump was giving voters the hollow junk-food demagoguery they craved?”
Then there’s qualities that we think look OK on a male but not a female candidate. Have you explained to your friends that you don’t like Clinton because she’s hawkish? If you’ve steered away from male candidates for their military readiness then… OK. But, if this is the first time in your voting history that our military programme has been a problem for you, then to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you MIGHT be a misogynist.
Have you ever held a male candidate so accountable for the actions of their wife that you withheld your vote for them? If Bill is the reason you’re not voting for Clinton, you MIGHT be a misogynist.
If you think that Hillary Clinton took more than her fair share of speaking time at the debates—post debate analytics show that she spoke about 40 per cent of the time during the first debate and 49 per cent of the time during the second—you MIGHT be a misogynist. (Despite her airtime gap, she STILL managed to say more than Trump did.)
This election will hopefully end well for us. I hope Clinton makes history by becoming our first female president.
Side note: you must vote, Americans. Don’t assume you can take a day off just because she’s currently up in the polls. The Trump garbage fire isn’t going to put ITSELF out.
But, our work can’t end when the election does. We can’t sweep the starkly fascist and depressed snapshot we’ve seen of so many of our friends and neighbours under the rug. We must work to engage more affectionately and effectively with each other. My motto for 2017 is ‘Adopt a Trump supporter’. Even if it’s just the one.
We must never come this close again.5119 Views
Kate McCabe is an American comic living in Manchester. When not gigging as a standup, she improvises with ComedySportz Manchester, and contributes to local TV and radio including The Gay Agenda on Fab Radio.