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Presidential politics has now become America’s obsession

Top of the Ticket cartoon
Top of the Ticket cartoon
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

The presidential campaign of 2016 has not only achieved total dominion in the world of news media, it has invaded the gossipy realm of entertainment and discombobulated the daily lives of ordinary Americans.

According to a story on National Public Radio, Donald Trump masks are HUGE this Halloween. “Saturday Night Live” lampoons of the presidential debates have become must-see TV. The real debates beat out National Football League games in the ratings, and there is speculation that the audience for all televised NFL games is down this year because people are preoccupied with the campaign.

The bitter battle between Hillary Clinton and Trump has brought citizens together in enormous numbers to watch each new and unprecedented twist in the unfolding story, even as it has further separated the nation into two camps, each with a profound disdain and loathing for the opposing side. Facebook pages flame with vitriol. Friends are unfriended. There are reports that even sedate book groups blow up in impassioned rants when someone mentions the race for the White House.

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This election has offended genteel sensibilities, led newspapers and magazines to print scatological terminology never before seen beyond the racks of men’s magazines and caused parents to usher children from the room when political news comes on TV. New lows in political discourse are achieved on a daily basis. CNN devotes evening after evening to infantile squabbles between obsequious surrogates for the candidates and calls it news. Fox News and MSNBC report from two different realities.

As election day nears, there is both a collective sigh of relief that this marathon slog through the muck will finally be over and a perverse sense of disappointment. It is as if we have been binge-watching every installment of “Survivor” (or maybe “Naked and Afraid”) and are finally reaching the last episode. We are exhausted, our minds are numbed but we will miss feeding our voyeuristic fascination with the sordid spectacle and cringe-worthy melodrama.

But will it really be over? Facing defeat, Trump is busy preparing his alibi. If we lose, Trump tells his red-capped legions, it will only prove the system is rigged, the election has been stolen and that lyin’ Hillary is an illegitimate president, just like that black guy, Obama.

Trump may turn his attention to starting a new TV network that appeals to all his apoplectic, conspiracy-obsessed followers. House Republicans (if they retain their majority) will immediately unleash a squall of investigations aimed at politically eviscerating the country’s first female president. The greater Republican Party will be seething with recrimination and blame for the electoral meltdown. Bill and Hillary will be back in the White House and the Clinton haters will be back in business. Meanwhile, the news media will take a quick breath and then begin speculating about who will be running in 2020.

So, take heart — or take a Valium — because the show is not actually ending. This one never ends.

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter


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