From Mumbles to Kalamazoo…

If I have to choose a topic for an in depth quiz over the next few days I think I would probably choose American geography. For years I’ve had a passing knowledge of the United States. I knew that California was way out west, and New York was in the east.  I’d been to Tennessee and Mississippi deep down in the south so I could always pick them out on a map but where on earth is Iowa and Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina? After a week spent with Wolf Blitzer and the team on CNN now I know.

The odd thing was I knew so many of the towns, cities, counties and states by name, I just didn’t know where they were.  The reason I knew about, Allentown, Phoenix or Galveston was because they had featured in songs sung by some of my favourite artistes.  Billy Joel’s song about Allentown tells the story about the decline of manufacturing in an old steel town. On Wednesday I found out that was in the State of Pennsylvania, one of the so called ‘rust states’.  Glen Campbell’s greatest hits included the names Phoenix and Galveston.  

But then came towns from the other songs I must have collected along the way.  When the CNN studio computer flashed up a map on the ‘Magic Wall’ up came the town Kalamazoo. I just couldn’t help myself, I burst into song.  ‘I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo’. A big hit for Glen Miller in 1942.

Kalamazoo is a real place?  I thought they’d just made it up but no it’s a town in another of the rust states, Michigan, somewhere top ‘rightish’ on the map, near the Great Lakes. When they went across to Nevada I turned into Johnny Cash singing ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’.

The one that caused the greatest amount of amusement was a song by Perry Como.  Every time the studio crossed to the Joe Biden HQ in Willington, Delaware I started singing, ‘What did Delaware boys, what did Delaware?’.  My daughter thought I was just making it up. 


Thank goodness for YouTube on my phone because then and there I was able to play her that Perry Como classic which uses various states to tell a complete nonsense story. In case you were wondering what Delaware did…she wore a brand ‘New Jersey’.

The reason the songs kept coming was the CNN Election Night Special was still running 4 days after it started. Now I’ve been a broadcaster for over 30 years.  I don’t want to boast but if my producer says, Mal can you talk for a minute to get us up to the news, I can spout nonsense as well as the next presenter. There have even been times when something has gone wrong, maybe a record didn’t play, or a guest hadn’t turned up and I’ve had to ‘fill’ for 3 or maybe 5 minutes.  It’s doable but it gets tougher, the longer the gap, the slower the hands on the clock seem to turn.

The 24 hour news team have taken the ability to ‘fill’ to a completely new level, they are the ‘Olympic Marathon’ champions of punditry.  They have been able to talk for hours on end with absolutely no new information to bring to the table and still make it sound that they are completely in control. It became strangely addictive to see how one presenter would hand over to another presenter to basically get them to say exactly the same thing that they had already just said, but in a slightly different way.

In many ways the CNN TV coverage with its Magic Wall, and its slowly changing ‘scores on the doors’ almost separated us from the actual importance of the Presidential Election itself.  This was not the political version of Sky’s Soccer Saturday with Wolf Blitzer being the equivalent of Jeff Sterling.  Behind the maps and numbers and percentages and projections a massive decision across the Atlantic was being made that would eventually affect our lives here in Swansea.

Really, the US Presidential Election affects us?  I think it does. 

Over the past decade the world has changed.  Some would say for the better.  Disrupters have had the chance to break down the system, they have had an opportunity to challenge accepted norms and put the establishment to the test.  Others would say that opportunists have done untold damage, that their lack of respect and responsibility has allowed them to do things we all thought were unimaginable 10 years ago.

Maybe I’m just being naïve.  Maybe this has always gone on with people in power. Maybe it’s just that in the past they haven’t been quite so brazen, obvious or proud of their ability to ‘game the system’.

At least when we see this out in the open we can choose to agree with it, or we can ‘push back’ as they say on CNN.  That definitely happened on Thursday evening.  In the past Donald Trump has said things that most of the world would believe to be plainly untrue.  This has been passed off as hyperbole or just politicians talk or…that’s just Trump.  On Thursday night, after hearing his 30 minute low energy grumble, commentators on all sides of the US political divide said he lied. Worse still they said that his claims of wide spread fraud and cheating called into question the democratic process on which their nation has been built.

So that’s the state of politics in the USA at least we don’t have those sorts of problems in the UK…do we?