1. It’s Monday, August 8, 2016. It’s 92 days until the election.
2. This is the first Olympics since 1996 when I’ve been able to watch without having to worry about getting up for work the next morning. Nice!
What has been cool about these games is the availability of events live online. It allows people to not only watch what they know in real time, but to watch events they never see. I’ve watched more table tennis in the last 48 hours than I’ve played in the last 48 years.
It’s also been great to watch the swimming events live the past two nights, whether or not the Americans have won.
That’s due largely to the fact that Rio is only an hour ahead of Eastern Time; if these games had taken place in Europe or Asia, NBC would have subjected its primetime viewers to taped packages. As it was, all the women’s gymnastics aired last night was taped and repackaged.
3. One of the better things about the Olympics is that it offers the possibility, for its two weeks, of distracting Americans from the presidential election.
Now, I’m not an advocate for disengagement. I think this election is the most consequential in my lifetime, and I definitely have a strong stance on who (Hillary Clinton!) should win.
But we’ve been going at this election for more than a year; my Facebook feed reminded me that Saturday was the anniversary of that first Fox GOP debate. It’s been relentless – has Trump taken more than a day away from tweeting stupidity yet?
So a little break wouldn’t hurt. Not sure that Trump can let that much time slide without saying something totally ridiculous. But we’ll see.
4. Does the Olympics impact the election? I’m not sure.
I don’t think any American consciously says “Hey, the U.S. did great, I’m voting for the incumbent party” or “Hey, we didn’t win as many medals as we thought we would, it’s time for a change.”
But I do think the U.S. showing contributes to the nation’s psychology as it approaches Election Day, three months from today.
Would Ronald Reagan have swept to re-election in 1984 without the Los Angeles Olympics that summer? Of course. But having a great American showing, aided by the Soviet boycott and the fact that it was on his home turf, can put folks in a positive frame of mind.
By contrast, we boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. So there were no American heroes that summer. That negative was in the air as Jimmy Carter sought re-election against Reagan. Did it hurt?
Again, I don’t think it’s one of those measurable things. No one is going to answer a poll question saying I didn’t vote for Carter because the U.S. didn’t win any gold medals this year.
But seeing young Americans standing at the top of the medals platform for the national anthem makes normal people happy.
Now happy isn’t part of the Trump game plan. Remember that he wants to make American great again. How can it be great again when there are American flags celebrating Olympic victories in Rio already?
How can he say we don’t win at anything anymore if there’s someone standing there with a gold medal draped around his or her neck after, um, winning.
I’m not saying Trump doesn’t want U.S. athletes to win. It would be Trumpian of me to do so.
But I can’t help but think that American Olympic victories can affect people who are undecided about the direction the country is headed. Yet one more reason to shout “Go U.S.A.”