I am addicted to American politics. I put this down to two contributing factors; firstly, I was very impressionable at the age of 17/18 when I studied for my History A Level. My course included a year spent studying American History, they took us out to Boston, I tried Reese’s Pieces for the first time, I was hooked. Incidentally, at this same time I was studying the English Civil War and bought my first Bowie cassette. Impressionable or what? I pretty much developed my entire personality within 2 years!
Secondly, American politics has been the subject of many of my favourite TV shows – House of Cards and The West Wing being the best and the former being the best of the best right up until that last season that I spent ages looking forward to, meh – that I have a tendency to watch the news as if it were a work of fiction. Who is writing this stuff? I’m assuming all of the writers have been on drugs since 2016 because this is not at all believable.
Joking aside, I get hooked on the big stuff and rolling news only feeds my addiction. I watched days of coverage around the 2018 midterm elections, watched 2 days of the Kavanaugh hearings, and probably spent over a week watching the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election (and a few days crying in front of the news in the days that followed). I may be a long way away but, in those big moments, I am right there with you America. I watched for a good hour waiting for Hillary Clinton to come out and speak to the nation on the worst Wednesday in the history of the world – I ugly cried. I was heartbroken for women the world over and I was heartbroken for my American cousins.
Sometimes, watching events across the pond can feel like a masochistic pleasure, especially when there is no shortage of political face-palming to be enjoyed in the UK at present. Why do I do it to myself? The answer is because it is fascinating and like the involuntary way my neck creaks around to look at an accident on the motorway, I cannot help but look hard into the car crash that is Washington DC every single day.
I would love to bake a cake for Michael Barbaro, the silver-tongued journalist host at the helm of the good ship The Daily. When the news is presented to you in such a friendly and calming manner, you just get the sense that everything is going to be OK. Over the past week, I have listened to Michael Barbaro reporting on the longest government shutdown in US history (the potted headline for those who don’t follow this is that if the executive branches of government do not sign off the budget for the lower branches, they have no money to pay their employees who are simply sent home until they can reopen, there are 800,000 people who did not receive a salary in January 2018 and they will not receive this money at a later date) and the issue of border security which is the reason for the shutdown.
Even-handed and impartial, whilst being unashamedly clearly not Trump supporters, The Daily has allowed me to hear directly from a Border Sheriff in Arizona who agrees that a physical barrier is necessary and a Republican Congressman from Texas who disagrees with Trump’s assessment of the need for a wall. I’ve followed the nomination of the new Attorney General and the start of his confirmation hearings – wondering all the time what this will mean for Robert Mueller’s investigation – and considered the issues that the questions of intersectionality raised by the infighting in the Women’s March movement.
I honestly don’t think that I can make it through the day without listening to The Daily. I hope that this is all making me a more interesting dinner party guest, though Chris and certain members of my family probably strongly disagree as I begin another rant and have to put another pound in the ‘Talking About Trump Again’ jar.
Throughout all of his reporting on the difficult, the upsetting, and the downright bizarre, Barbaro’s voice is even and calm, inquisitive and reassuring. His interviews are punctuated by those little noises that we make to let the speaker know that we are listening – you know, especially when you are on the phone and want the other person to know that you are still there and taking it all in, little ‘hmmm’s here and there. At first I found it bizarre because this sort of human interaction is usually left out of the news. Now I find it incredibly endearing.
Condensing big issues into only 20 minutes out of your day, it’s easy to stay up to date. It’s a fantastic way to ingest quality journalism when you are on the go – much as I would love to have the time to sit down with a newspaper or read articles online, I am on my feet, I am running around a kitchen, I am listening to the best of The New York Times and hearing directly from their sources through interviews.
A major bonus to listening to The Daily comes in the form of the extra realism that they leave on some of their phone interviews – I’ve heard Barbaro fobbed off by receptionists, I’ve heard him on hold for a guest, replete with awful hold music. It’s funny. It’s what being a journalist entails. It’s hard work.
Someone recently described The New York Times as ‘failing.’ It’s really not.
Of course, no man is an island. If I would love to bake a cake for Michael Barbaro, I guess I’m going to have to make one big enough to share around the amazing production team responsible for getting The Daily into my ears. It’s by far the best produced podcast out there and an impossible gold standard to shoot for!
Now if only there was a version for UK politics… just kidding I wouldn’t want to listen to that. Sticking my fingers firmly in my ears and hoping it all goes away. La la la la la!