IT APPEARS I have got something of a knack for finding myself in newsworthy situations.

In 2011, I lived and worked in ground zero, as parts of Brisbane, Australia, were submerged by floodwaters.

Then, in late 2013, having had no prior experience with snowy winters, I relocated to central Maine — just in time to feel the wrath of a polar vortex.

Two-and-a-half years later, I have relocated again, to Florida, one of the key swing states in the U.S. presidential race.

Unless you are a die-hard fan of baseball spring training, or Miami Heat basketball, the Republican and Democratic campaigns are the biggest show in town.

For the sake of transparency, I will throw this out there up front: As a U.S. permanent resident, my eligibility to vote is the same as that of a convicted felon or someone on parole in Florida: that is to say, I have no eligibility.


So because I cannot exercise my democratic right to vote for the next leader of the free world, I am embarrassingly a little politically apathetic here.

Do not get me wrong; it certainly does not mean the campaign is not constantly on my radar.

For starters, I live in West Palm Beach, where former Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson hangs his shingle, albeit not in the same street.

Just minutes away — across the Intracoastal Waterway — is Palm Beach, the glamorous island strip where Donald Trump is a part-time resident and long-time ruffler of feathers in the “old money” community.

The real estate mogul and longtime New York socialite owns a private club called Mar-a-Lago, numerous luxury hotels and golf courses in south Florida.

An hour south, on Interstate 95, you will hit Miami, the birthplace of yet another former Republican candidate: Marco Rubio.


Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are not from around here, but they have made their appearances in the Sunshine State too.

If the proximity of all of those potential presidents is not enough, Palm Beach County has a permanent place in election lore.

In 2000, with George W. Bush and Al Gore fighting it out to become the commander in chief, it came down to Florida’s votes to decide on the presidency.

A tiny margin in the election night vote count forced an automatic recount. Among other factors in the impossibly close race, Democrats alleged that because of the design of the ballots in Palm Beach County, some residents’ votes were marked for conservative Pat Buchanan instead of Gore.

In the end, we know how it ended up. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the state Supreme Court’s ruling on manual recounts, and Bush became the nation’s 43rd president.

However you look at it, there is no denying it, living in south Florida and working in the newspaper business has me right in the thick of it all — whether I can have my say or not.



When I started at The Palm Beach Post last November, Trump’s campaign was really starting to gain more attention, if you can possibly imagine a time when it did not.

The saturation of coverage has increased steadily since then because, whether you agree with him or not, he is a walking website traffic magnet, and clicks are currency in the digital news business.

The airwaves — particularly cable news channels — are equally flooded with the candidates’ faces.

It is impossible to avoid, even for your typical millennial “cable-cutter.”

These days it takes one hell of a news event to knock the 2016 presidential race off the agendas of CNN, MSNBC or Fox News — depending on what is on rotation on the newsroom TVs.


Given I do not have cable at home, I have not had the privilege of seeing any of the candidates’ debates in their entirety.

But spending nine hours a day in front of Twitter at work means I never miss a beat.

That is certainly an eye-opening (and occasionally eye-rolling) contrast to campaigning back home in Australia: It feels so much louder here.

And yet, amid all of the shouting, it took me an embarrassingly long time to establish what each of the candidates’ policies were.

Regardless of party affiliation, it feels to this expat as though more time is spent on muckraking and slinging of the proverbial excrement than spent explaining how they would be the best choice to run a world superpower.

In saying that, I cannot point the finger and say that is something that is unique to American election campaigns.


The (anecdotal) common stereotype about the U.S. is that everything is on a bigger scale: meal portions, pickup trucks, cities, football players.

I do not think that sniping and attacks between politicians is any less prevalent at home. It is just a matter of scale.


Since my first vacation in the U.S., almost a decade ago, I have always made a point of keeping an open mind.

Sure, some things might be polar opposites to the way I am used to, but that is the best thing about travel: experiencing how other countries do it.

But when a co-worker recently asked me, “Are elections like this back in Australia?” I felt compelled to respond to him frankly.


“It feels much more like entertainment here,” I replied.

By that, I do not necessarily mean it is must-see viewing that the whole family should crowd around after dinner on a weeknight.

However, there are certainly elements that feel like a scripted television show.

On one side, we have a couple of career politicians running against an actual reality TV show fixture.

While on the other side of the battle, there is a former first lady and potentially the first female president of the U.S. in Hillary Clinton facing off against Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old man attracting a millennial supporter base by urging them to #FeelTheBern.

The elements carry to the details of the U.S. election itself, with big news stories sounding just like minor story arcs that could appear in any network TV drama.


These include Clinton’s email scandal, the legitimacy of photos depicting Sanders at civil rights rallies in the 1960s, a weird Twitter movement demanding that Ted Cruz reveal himself as the Zodiac Killer of the 1970s (this is not a joke), and pretty much any of the controversial statements Trump has uttered in the past nine months.

Trump’s unmistakable “Make America Great Again” baseball caps are one thing, but Cruz, for a time, sold American History X-inspired posters, which read “Blacklisted and loving it” on the merchandise section of his website.

Social media obviously have played a large part in the daily circus as well. Anyone who follows Trump on Twitter knows the sheer volume of content — sometimes incendiary — that he posts each day.

Sanders’ supporters have adopted the #FeelTheBern hashtag, while the Clinton campaign seemingly has attempted to harness every digital trend possible in an attempt to hit voters from the BuzzFeed generation.


But to feed the beast that is the 24-hour news cycle, sometimes you have got to think outside the box.


On top of all of the news coverage you come to expect from dozens of cable channels, newspapers and every other medium, you have also got airtime filled by a less conventional form of correspondent.

One of my favorite instances of this was via Vice, a magazine-turned-website, which covers lifestyle, culture and, increasingly over the past few years, news.

Vice sent legendary Texas rapper Bun B out on the campaign trail to file dispatches from the road.

I am sure that I am wrong, but I cannot think of an instance in recent memory when a major news organization sent an entertainer — particularly one about as far removed from the traditional idea of political coverage as you can think of — to report on the stumping.

And what he produced was excellent.

“This isn’t about politics. This is about a famous person from television coming to town,” Bun B said in his column for Vice.


“This election isn’t really about the issues at hand. It’s a popularity contest, made for reality TV. And this dude is the Honey Boo Boo of this political pageant.”

But let me be very clear: It has not all been confusing, confronting or in-your-face quasi-entertainment.

I have also watched democracy in action, in a truly grass-roots way.

Some of the close friends I made during my time in central Maine have been loud, proud and active supporters of one candidate in particular, which culminated in their preferred presidential hopeful winning the majority of delegates.

That is the power of the people.



There is also at least one definite upside to all this yelling, social media bickering and election drama that will continue deep into 2016: plummeting gas prices.

For reasons that no one can actually explain to me in any sort of scientific manner, the cost of a tank of gas has dipped in a big way and “it always happens before elections.”

From my own personal experience, when I first moved out here in 2013, the price of gas averaged around $3.20 per gallon.

In Florida, it is now around $1.81 a gallon.

My comprehensive survey is not complete, but I am pretty confident that no one is upset about the fact that it costs less than $20 to fill the car up.

Unfortunately the price of a gallon of beer — eight pints — is not quite as low, but it is still affordable enough to see me through until my adoptive homeland has a new president.

In many ways it is no different from Down Under, where sometimes we need a cold one to make the campaign a little more palatable.

Adrian Crawford is a former Web producer for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel who moved to Maine from Australia in 2013. Follow Adrian on Twitter at @Crawf33 or keep up with his adventures in the United States at

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