The knife-edge US election should give us pause for thought

There is much to analyse but still much to do, both at home and abroad, writes editor Paul McNamee
JOe Biden on the campaign trail before his electoral win. Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

A moment came for pause. It wasn’t because after a couple of days straight watching little but John King on CNN telling us all about “pathways” and how election “math” was kicking in that the spirit was broken.

John became a global cult figure in a matter of hours. Who else could stand at a giant digital screen showing the United States of America, tap it and tell us about how the several thousand residents of a small county in Georgia were likely to be voting? I think if probed John could tell us how their car was financed and where the best place for a sandwich was. I just hope that now, several days later, John is getting some sleep.

It was the video of Donald Trump’s spiritual guru Paula White praying hard for his re-election that did it. Or rather the edited meme that had Paula praying in sync to the backing track of Eminem’s Without Me. With a big cat in the corner of the screen nodding in time. I think this was possibly to represent Dr Dre in the original video.

Still, the future direction of western democracy was on a knife-edge. At the same time, a new lockdown hitting England, bringing life to a halt and fears over work and the future for many into stark view, a lockdown which also prevents nearly 1,000 Big Issue vendors from earning a living. And I’m thinking about the symbolism of a cat in a meme.

Either take that as a symbolic rendering of how we all live now, or suggest I get out more.

No pause would last, though. Regardless of anything going on around our own patch, there was just no way of emerging from the global shadow of the US election as the count ticked over. The interest was not because of some inflated sense of the ties that bind the UK and the US. In China, up until last Thursday the hashtag for the US election had been viewed 7.3 billion times on Weibo, the country’s biggest social media platform. This mattered everywhere.

We didn’t need the tireless John King to make real the sense that the world was shifting on its axis. And that something positive could come, and ripple out everywhere beyond. As football fans will frequently say – it’s the hope that kills you.

In a piece of circular magic, we’re also calling on a cat to distract and entertain this week. The late Street Cat Bob is our cover star again, ushering in early thoughts of Christmas.

Let Bob be some kind of beacon. During the spring lockdown, we were able to get money and support to our vendors thanks to donations and subscriptions bought by generous, good people like you.

And now, we need to ask again. We have launched our Urgent Christmas Appeal. By subscribing to The Big Issue or donating you will help us help our vendors, and help us stick around. We are going to be needed so much again when the lockdown eases.

As a proud organisation, we at The Big Issue have stood independently for nearly 30 years, providing those right on the margins of society with a means to earn and work their way back to society. But just now we need a bit of help to help those who need us.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue 

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