In less than two months, Election Day 2016 will finally arrive, and the race to the White House will come to an end. As one of the most unpredictable and dramatic elections in history, our current political moment has fascinated the world, including our ever stalwart friends across the Atlantic, the British.
But what about the many Brits who live here in the States? What are they thinking of Election 2016, as both insiders and outsiders to the process? To find out, The Daily Beast spoke with four British expats to find their insights and observations as we navigate this rollercoaster of a US presidential election.
It’s Better Than A Reality Show
Politics and election cycles in England are, according to our expats, apparently quite boring in the UK—or, at least, they don’t garner the same degree of international attention, for better or worse. If Americans think our elections are similar to the rest of the world’s, we may be quite mistaken. And it starts with the overall tone of our politics.
“This is the best celebrity reality show that I have seen in decades,” says Chris Williams, a British comedian and actor who recently re-relocated from New York to Ireland. “It’s almost as if politics and policy have gone out the door and it’s all about the branding.”
The 2016 US election feels incredibly surprising to many Brits, with its frequently outlandish media moments. As Mischa Pearlman, a British writer and music journalist based in Brooklyn, puts it, “This election is a thousand times crazier than I could have ever imagined. Everyone said that Trump would never happen and then he rose to the top, [but] the Democrats had so many scandals…it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
The election’s dramatic and volatile nature, so reminiscent of a reality TV show, shocks many British observers, with their more mannered cultural roots. Melinda Hughes, a British opera and cabaret performer and satirist, is stunned by “how personal everything is. The personal attacks are just astonishing.” Hughes, whose satirical cabaret performances have won her rave reviews from British and American publications alike, likely appreciates having even more crazy material to draw from for her work. On the other side of the Atlantic, plenty of Americans have viewed British politics from afar and longed for their unique mixture of frankness, confrontation, and relative focus on policy.
The Election That Takes FOREVER
Compared to the UK and many countries globally, the US election cycle is significantly longer, to the point that Brits find it absurd. Since we don’t regulate how long electioneering can take place in the US, our election cycles can be almost four to five times longer than those in the UK. This long-game approach to voting is utterly baffling to the Brits.
Laurence Brown, British comedian and author of “Lost In The Pond”, a blog about British expat life in Chicago, jokes that the length of the US presidential election run is “mind-blowing. I mean, it takes as long as the sun going around the planet one and a half times. We do it in months in the UK.” Williams, agreeing with Brown, says that the “US election season is just so long. People are going to be really tired by the end of this.” Perhaps we could learn something about electoral efficiency from our British expat community.
What Exactly Is the Electoral College?
Despite living in the US for several years, US politics and electoral rules can be downright confusing for our group of British expats. From how exactly the election works in its various stages to how long the political process takes, US elections can feel murky or from the British perspective. Brown confesses, in the classic British blend of self-deprecation and wit, that “when it comes to the electoral college, I assumed it was where the candidates went to school. It took a while for me to understand how it actually worked, and I’m still not sure I understand it.”
Outside of the electoral college confusion, the length of the electoral process seems just as bewildering—if not directly at odds with the US’s values of representative democracy. “It’s such a long process for these primary campaigns,” shares Pearlman. I have to wonder when the politicians involved are charting bills, or when they have time to do the actual work if they are currently in any political office. It’s also hard to know how much your vote counts in the US.”
Yet, The Brits Still Can’t Resist US Politics
While this election cycle has stood out like no other for the Brits, there are still elements they love about how we handle the business of American politics,
“I’ve gone to events at Madison Square Garden and I find it amazing that just as many people go to political events and with so much enthusiasm,” says Williams, who also loves the constant exchange of dialogue throughout the whole election process. “Bless you, how can anyone get this animated over politics or an election?”
Overall, the British expats to whom we spoke view Americans as deeply passionate when it comes to their politics, a trait they respect even as they wonder at the emotion of it all. “The intensity of the elections is like a boxing match with two contenders,” Pearlman points out.
Can We All Just Own That Climate Change is Real?
When it comes to hot-button issues during election season, British expats can’t understand the ongoing “debate” surrounding climate change, considering the significant scientific consensus that it exists. Even stranger: who Americans pay attention to as an expert on the topic. “The most famous American to speak about climate change is Leonardo DiCaprio, but if you think about it, who else knows the most about icebergs?” asks Williams. And regardless of who wins this upcoming presidential election, he says, “Climate change is real, there’s actual data that it exists, and it is happening.”
Brexit Is Just Proof That Anything Can Happen Anywhere
For the Brits, it’s not just the US presidential election that astounded them in 2016: their very own Brexit mania also sent shockwaves across the Atlantic, from how quickly it happened to the belief that most Brits don’t even realize the consequences of leaving the EU. As Hughes, who opposes Brexit, puts it, “If Brexit can happen in the UK, anything can happen in the US.” Perhaps American and British politics are growing closer as we speak.
For more hilarious and insightful looks into the life of a British expat in the US, don’t miss the second season of the hit STARZ comedy Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt, a British journalist tackling the world of American News. Catch the season premiere October 2, only on STARZ.
This content was produced on behalf of Starz by The Daily Beast brand strategy team and not by The Daily Beast editorial staff.