Greg Shapiro: The Greatest Reality Show on Earth

Are the Netherlands and the United States really both democracies? asks Greg Shapiro.

They say America & Nederland are both democracies. But to look at them side by side, you can hardly tell. I’m doing a stage show at BoomChicago called ‘My Big Fat American Election.’ Part of the show is simply comparing the effective Dutch system with the entertainment spectacle of the American behemoth. Here’s a quick guide.

Dutch elections take 6 weeks. ‘We put up the posters, we count up the ballots. Kopje koffie en een koekje.’ American elections take at least 18 months: that’s longer than some Dutch coalitions exist. There have been five Dutch elections in the past 10 years. Perhaps it’s because Dutch elections are so very frequent that the election process has to be so short.

Dutch elections are getting more expensive. The 2012 Dutch election set a new record for spending: €50m. In America, that translates to one TV attack ad during the World Series.

The entire US election is expected to cost about $6bn – $6 bn so two parties can argue how best to reduce the budget deficit. According to the Dutch, ‘Why don’t you just use the $6bn to pay down the deficit?’ Silly Dutch! That would be practical, but not nearly as entertaining!

But there’s one area where the Dutch are more extravagant than America: political parties. America has the ‘Red State’ party & the ‘Blue State’ party, and they can’t agree on the issues in the middle. Nederland has a whole rainbow of parties that can’t agree on anything. Apparently, the smaller the country the more they like to disagree.

Don’t forget: America has no royal family. We’ve got Hollywood and the White House. Maybe that’s why we treat our presidential elections with such pageantry. And with Hollywood budgets. For better or for worse,the US elections have become ‘The Greatest Reality Show on Earth.’

Greg Shapiro, the American Nederlander, is currently appearing in My Big Fat American Election.

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