This is a heartwarming thought: Reality television hasn’t screwed up the American political system quite as much as it’s screwing the British one. Hooray! In the race to the bottom, we are coming in second. In a piece for The Spectator, Toby Young argues that the British public’s reaction to the recently televised political debates — in which basically everyone fell in love with the underdog Nick Clegg — “isn’t based on any popular support for [his] party’s policies … Rather, it’s because Clegg has novelty value. He’s the surprise candidate whom the public can throw their weight behind in order to disrupt the narrative This is a familiar model, but it’s not that of a general election. It’s the X Factor.” Young believes that because we had presidential debates before the advent of reality television (the debates are new to the U.K.), we are less susceptible to electing someone just because we like them as much as Susan Boyle.
We must mention, however, that we’re not quite sure Young grasps how our presidential debates work. He warns his countrymen, “From now on, all future party leaders will be selected according to how well they’re likely to perform on this particular version of The X Factor. It won’t be their grasp of the issues that matters, their judgment, their ability to keep their heads in a crisis. It will be their hair and teeth — how ‘authentic’ and ‘likable’ they seem,” which, you know, sounds pretty much like our debates! Nonetheless, we will accept the compliment.