Since when did we start caring about the US mid-term elections?

Insight

Usually not even Americans take all that much interest in their mid-term elections. But this time it’s been a show-stopper both in the US and around the world.

American voters turned out in record numbers. The BBC ran live coverage. And a quick check in New Zealand in the last 24 hours showed Radio NZ, Stuff and the NZ Herald all had the race as their lead story.
None of this applied four years ago. So why the change?
First, there is the sheer pulling power of Donald Trump, who was not successful in reality television for nothing.
This was added to by the tension of any competition and the spectacle Trump adds to in determining winners and losers.
But beyond that, the interest has also been an example of how emotion and values very often drive any big story.
Yes, if you were American, policy differences on issues such as health and immigration matter. The rest of the world also cares about trade and its chances of being blown up.
But beyond the issues, what they symbolise was also important.
For many, being for or against Trump is a fight between good versus evil. And when we care that much emotion can drive everything else.
We are told people vote with their back pockets. This is true, but only up to a point. We also vote – and take an interest in issues – because of where our hearts lie, and where we want to wear them.
Behind all the action, great acting and production, questions of right and wrong have driven blockbusters like the Sopranos and Breaking Bad.
It’s one thing to oppose a politician because of their tax policy, another because you see them as a prince of darkness.
In the event, the expected blue wave of Democratic support scored a signal victory in the House of Representatives, but elsewhere encountered a fairly solid Republican red wall.
The tension will remain, with more showdowns ahead.
Luck and the economy will play vital roles as they play out. But as with any big drama, the winner is likely to be whoever best masters the subtext of values and emotion that define what the context is really all about.