The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The Republic of Entertainment | LRB blog

Obama and Romney are each spending about a billion dollars to get elected – four times what Bush and Gore spent in 2000. When one adds the unregulated PACs (political action committees) and Congressional and gubernatorial races, the cost of this year’s election is around $6 billion.

The reason, of course, is television advertising. As the election draws near, some 80,000 political advertisements are running every day on American televisions. The entire ecosystem of lobbyists and politicians dependent on donations from corporate and other interests is almost entirely due to television. Eliminate the ads, which are forbidden in many countries, and American politics would change overnight.

The astonishing thing is the uselessness of this potlatch. According to Nate Silver, the genius statistician, in every one of the fifty states, the presidential candidate who was leading in June – after the Republican primaries and two months before the conventions and the debates – is leading today.

The overheated media, the pundits turned into sportscasters, the game-changing moments, the attacks and counterattacks, the yoyo-ing polls, the triumphant or devastating debate performances, economic statistics, biographical revelations and uttered banalities are purely entertainment. The numbers may change slightly, but essentially the voters made up their minds months ago. The US elections are not only dependent on television – they are television.