To watch the American elections from Spain is like watching your neighbors two houses down bickering over the back hedge. You've known them for years. Neither man is a dummy, but their egos are easily bruised. They aren't bickering about anything in particular; they just don't like each other and are really just complaining that fate has thrown them together. In different circumstances they could drink some amicable beers together.
Ten days till the U.S. election, nine days, eight days....Yes, we have the countdown here in Spain too, and the same desperation of reporters to report something -- anything -- different from the previous day. The president again campaigns without a mask on, and Joe Biden proudly wears his. Here's the president at a rally, here's Joe Biden leaving a hospital or factory after talking concernedly with the workers and learning about their problems. The chic Melania steps up to the mic here, and Jill Biden their, both women fighting for their men and American democracy.
In Spain, politicians have no glamour. Nobody cares much about their personalities or private lives. Hardly ten Spaniards in a hundred could tell you the name of the president's wife. The couple has small children, I believe, but they are unknown. Spain has no cool Sashas and Malias.
That is one of the great strengths, however, of having a king: the president can remain a political hack who simply runs the government; all of the personal side of politics is absorbed in the monarchy. King Felipe's wife, Queen Letizia, is a much-examined beacon of fashion, and their two daughters, now in their early teens, are endlessly analyzed for their hairstyles and clothes. It was recently noted that young Princess Leonor, heir to the throne, wore high heels for the first time, though her younger sister, Sofia, beat her to this milestone by a month.
In Spain, politics is pure ideology -- more leftist, more rightist -- but in America, campaigns are supposed to be all about The Issues, and it is a recurring mystery that American campaigns come and go without anyone talking about them. The real issues candidate, Bernie Sanders, could not overcome the blob candidate, having made the bad mistake of presenting himself as a democratic socialist, and the moment a candidate mentions "socialist" or "social" or even an inadvertent "sosh," he's doomed.
Biden's stands on the issues are known in about the same proportion as Spaniards know the president's wife's name. Biden was just supposed to be the Democrat who could beat Trump. I wonder if that's true. The Dems always lose when they put up a "normal" candidate, and Joe is as normal as cinder brick.
Another important oddity that strikes one from this distance: scandals don't mean much anymore to the American electorate. Here in Spain, the previous president was brought down on a no-confidence vote when the titans of his party, though not himself, were found guilty on corruption charges. But in America, scandals flit across the TV screen like flies through the house, and people just shoo them away. Biden's intervention in Ukraine in favor of his son -- he bragged about it -- would have disqualified him twenty years ago. Likewise, Trump's calling Mexicans rapists is taken with philosophy by his followers.
Trump was absolutely right when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his people would still vote for him. Say what you like (or hate) about Trump, you have to admire that kind of acumen, and this from a guy who's always lived thirty stories up in the air and rarely talked to anyone below the twentieth floor or the $250,000 tax bracket.
Political campaigns here in Spain are defined by law to last just a couple of weeks, though there is a certain amount of electioneering in what is called tongue-in-mejilla "the pre-campaign" period. But Spaniards don't get to election day sick and tired of it all -- well, maybe a little.
American politicians could emulate this practice: hold the election right after the conventions -- say mid- to late-September -- and inaugurate the new president on New Year's Day. After all, can there be a single voter in America who has not already formed an opinion about President Trump? And all those "undecided" voters: when do they actually decide? According to advertisers, they often vote as suggested by the last ad they saw before leaving the house. Ninnies, if you ask me.
But finally The Day has arrived, though this time around we might not know the victor for a day or two. President Trump has decried this delay as being a big reason not to allow voting by mail. Me, I think it's healthy. An exercise in public patience is not a bad thing, especially when the flu virus is making life miserable, and a remedy is still a long ways off.