Opinion: The great electoral dog and pony show



Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer is a senior anthropology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]..

It’s a languishing reflection on the defective state of our nation when the best election coverage aired on Comedy Central. I’ll say that again: The basic cable channel that brought us “Mind of Mencia” and “The Jeff Dunham Show” had the most genuine and fair coverage of the most important election in a generation. Before we get into anything too deep, let’s review some of the “highlights” (or utter failures) of the cable news networks’ coverage on Tuesday night.

Wolf Blitzer’s hipster glasses and childlike fits of excitement over the Empire State Building’s lights were entertaining, but CNN lived up to its reputation as the bumbling fool of cable news. Bonus: The CNN Headline News channel played a “What Would You Do?” marathon. I think what I’ll do is change the channel. At least ESPN had an interview with Jimmy McMillan of “the rent is too damn high” fame.

Fox News — oh, Fox News. I loved seeing the long list of states you hoped Mitt Romney would win. It was cute watching you wish Romney would “run the inside straight” – whatever that means. What is most surprising (actually, not surprising at all) is that Fox News didn’t do much reporting and did a whole lot of punditry. In bipartisan fairness, everything I’ve said about Fox News can be said about MSNBC’s equally as partisan coverage.

Among the broadcast networks, PBS was fair but extremely mundane. For a station with so much at stake in this election, you’d expect its pundits to have a little bit more energy than a Thorazine patient. The local news stations delivered all the folksy and campy adumbrations that you’d expect.

Luckily, America only had to endure torture by pundit until 11 p.m., when Comedy Central’s live coverage began. Jon Stewart’s assertion that Romney had won “most of the Confederacy,” as well as John Oliver’s mockery of the cable news networks’ obsession with social media and pointless presentation technologies, were spot-on. Stewart had the honor of calling the election right before the end of the broadcast, much to the appeal of his mostly young crowd.

Stephen Colbert, my preferred pundit of the two Comedy Central figureheads, took the coverage into a level of absurdity that put the preposterous notions of the entire election cycle into crude perspective. Colbert’s wrap up interview with blogger Andrew Sullivan was weak, but still better than anything else on cable.

The Comedy Central coverage maintained a balance between intellectually stimulating discussion and humor that helped deliver a clear and scathing editorial of the cultural spectacle that the democratic process has become. The cable news stations’ mindless coverage on election night felt more like halftime of the Super Bowl than a serious attempt at journalism. Conversely, the “joke” coverage provided the most telling account of the election and the blatant absurdities that we have endured for the past year.

In light of the harebrained showing of the entertainment-news giants, we can at least look forward to not having to listen to pundits (or ads) for at least a few years.