The 2020 US Presidential election: irresistible drama, late-night CNN, and Chris Cuomo | Jack Marshall's column
America knows entertainment. It does it better than anything else, apart from maybe putting high-fructose corn syrup in food and school shootings. And, recently, there’s only been one show in town.
Not to be glib about an election upon which rested the fate of not only America’s global respectability but also humanity’s chance to act on the climate crisis and repel the rise of populist disinformation, but having been glued to CNN’s coverage of the 2020 presidential race, the drama was delectable.
UK politics are adorably parochial. If our fragile menagerie of hereditary OAPs in the House of Lords aren’t sufficiently clad in ermine pelt and stoat buttock, there’s an uproar. This is a country where the Prime Minister can be made to stand on a rickety stage in a dilapidated community centre next to Lord Buckethead for the count in Maidenhead.
Compare this to CNN.
For days, a cabal of perfect superhumans - from the flawless Abby Phillip and the automaton Jake Tapper to the movie star-esque Van Jones and the eerily intense Anderson Cooper - flitted about the screen like news terminators from the future.
With Wolf Blitzer peppering him with questions, the redoubtable John King would take to the majestic Magic Wall, expertly zooming in on Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, explaining that mail-in votes were being counted at a rate of 3,456 per hour and skewed 67.2% in Biden’s favour, whilst the President needed at least 87.9% of all remaining ballots to win the state’s 20 electoral votes.
And then there was Chris Cuomo.
Cuomo took me on a journey. Initially, his puppyish enthusiasm and tendency to call his colleagues in the field ‘brother’ came across as cringey. But this was to fundamentally misunderstand the Cuomster. Through the night, his raw passion and inability not to think out loud became intensely charming.
Then he said “the system is working; it’s slow and low, that’s the tem-po” at 3am and I was officially reborn as a Chris Cuomo superfan.
Americans were born to be on TV, all flawless hair, sugar-white teeth, and Hollywood accents. Even as their ridiculous President had an adult temper-tantrum and besmirched the entire democratic process on live TV, the acerbic Anderson Cooper calmly called him ‘pathetic’, branding him ‘an obese turtle on his back, flailing in the hot sun’. Stunning.
The lack of sleep was worth it; American politics is box-office.