Rowan Dean on Sky News Australia (Image: supplied)

Over at Sky News Australia there was a two-for-one offer today: you could get both the Australian Murdoch channel view and the American Murdoch channel view, as coverage shifted between Sky and Fox News.

If there was a difference between the two it came at 1.15pm local time as victory suddenly seemed possible for Donald Trump. With Florida going Trump’s way and early Biden leads being lost in Texas and elsewhere, the reaction from Sky’s Macquarie Park headquarters in the northern suburbs of Sydney made Fox look downright restrained.

Murdoch’s commentator-at-large Miranda Devine declared Biden’s run was dead. The Democrats’ big mistake? They had banked their entire strategy on COVID-19 and forgotten that Trump had delivered jobs to people who needed them.

The pronouncements came thick and fast. The intelligence agencies had corruptly pursued Trump. Trump had upended the electoral map.

Fellow conservative commentator Rowan Dean joined the pile-on. Black Americans had woken up to how the Democrats had taken them for granted. Trump had delivered jobs for them too.

At Fox HQ — ostensibly the home of Murdoch right-wing hysteria — the tone was measured. For all its bellicose barracking of the Trump presidency, it turns out Fox New York has one thing Sky Sydney does not have: a seasoned political analyst who is able to keep a cool head and look at the bigger picture.

Chris Wallace, moderator of the first Trump-Biden debate, argued that the vote was playing out precisely as campaign strategists suggested it would all along, with the result to be decided, eventually, by the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, with Arizona thrown in.

“In fact nothing surprising has happened tonight,” Wallace concluded, believing the final result would, as predicted, take days to play out.

But television loves a drama and back in Sydney’s north it played out as Dean, in the red corner, confected a shouty studio blue with the (nominally) ALP-aligned Grahame Richardson, there to defend the *cough* progressive side of politics.

Richo had earlier declared it was impossible that all the pollsters had it wrong. Now the legendary ALP numbers man would have to eat his words under the hectoring of a jubilant Dean.

“Not panicking yet,” objected Richo, “but I am reaching for the rosary beads.”

Before long Richo’s capitulation was complete. Biden, he agreed, was unlikely to make history tonight. It was music to the ears of a network which has plenty invested in the rise of conservative politics.

Sky’s coverage had kicked off with an out-of-time-zone appearance from the network’s after dark star Paul Murray, who laid it on the line for Sky viewers. This election was “a fork in the road” for Americans, he said.

“They are at that fork in the road because the left in the United States, Australia and right around the world is crazier than ever. But they’ve also never been closer to power.

“For decades, they have worked their way from student activists to running the academia, from the halls of humanities to dictating what every course should learn. Those graduates made their way into the bureaucracy of government. They made their way into corporate Australia. They’ve populated our parliaments, and they largely don’t think like us.”

By the end of the US day, Murray was still nervous, with that fork still very much sitting there.

Arizona had — very possibly — flipped to Biden. The red mirage was a real thing. The decision in the Rust Belt might not be known for days, as mail-in ballots continue to be counted.

Allowing a count until Friday was an open invitation to electoral fraud, according to Devine, ever on point with the president himself.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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