The Race That Stops A Nation


The first Tuesday in November is something of a sacred day, in Australia; it’s the Melbourne Cup. Offices close for the afternoon, staff hold betting pools, and nothing gets done while the nation watches.

Of course, things happen outside Australia too - but, with the date line, US elections land on a Wednesday for us; and for some of us, they get in the way of work even more than the horses did.

Streaming the entirety of the coverage means watching charts and maps of blue & red states for hours on end - and the sensitivity to those particular colours continues long afterwards, once results start to become clear. Every corner of the house seems to have become an electoral map, overnight.

On Thursday, the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney held something of a debrief for anyone who was interested in attending. A live recording of Planet America, complete with TV hosts and guest stars, it was another afternoon of those colours, those flags - those issues.

I can’t say I understand (or endorse) what’s been happening in the US any more than Patrick does; but what I think we saw this week was, in a few important senses, a bounce back towards normalcy, towards a representative house, towards unity - and away from division.

I sure hope so; it’s hard to imagine things continuing the way they seemed to be going over there.

Is it the end of politics as theatre? No, far from it.

But - just maybe - there’ll be slightly less absurd scripts to work with; fewer rogue actors and improvisation; and a tiny bit more realism to the performances.

[Of course, when I got home this afternoon, I had an inexplicable spam email offering me…Trumpcare?]

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Robert Catto

I'm a Canadian-Kiwi photographer in Sydney Australia, specialising in performing arts, live events, editorial and corporate / commercial work.