05 November 2008

The US Presidential election

1. When I was in the US during August, it was already absolutely clear to me that John McCain would win the election.

2. Subsequent to my return home, the appointment of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate, whilst considered inexplicable from the perspective of European commentators, finally brought fully on board the rednecks, the gun lobby and the evangelicals, all of whom had viewed McCain with suspicion as being somewhat liberal. Whilst it still shocks me that there are Christian people in Britain who would have voted for McCain simply because of his Christian beliefs, I know that the same is much more intensely true in the US.

3. During August I saw John McCain start to change his presentation from being the obviously polite, considerate man that he is, to being a person with clear-cut, no-nonsense, straight-down the line answers to any and all questions. I watched the man transform his presentation from appealing pleasantly to conservative people to appealing to rednecks, pro-lifers and evangelicals. Had he been elected to the White House, it is not him about whom I would have felt concern, but all the lobbies to which he owed allegiance.

4. One of the catch-phrases in the movie Sliding Doors, and I think probably from Monty Python before that, is "No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition". The so-called credit crunch began in September. President Bush, and by implication, the Republicans in general are seen as having handled the US economy badly, whereas Bill Clinton is seen (perhaps fairly, perhaps not) as having handled the US economy remarkably well. I feel certain that Barack Obama has benefited from this perception without having earned that trust.

5. Prior to September, John McCain was doing well in the polls because of his military background. On the other hand, Barack Obama was seen as weak and flaky, as too understanding, as "nuanced". The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not viewed by people in the US as anything like the liability that they are seen by almost everyone in Europe. The credit crunch turned an important issue into a very minor issue.

6. When I was in the US, I was struck by how similar Barack Obama is to how Tony Blair was back in 1997. To many, Tony Blair turned out to be a Tory in Labour livery. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has a Senate track record of attempting to push through liberal welfare reforms. I believe that had Hillary Clinton been chosen as the Democratic Party nominee, she may well have won the election had the credit crunch not happened. I still rue the fact that she was not selected.

7. Since its much-celebrated birth, the United States has been a nation comprised almost entirely of immigrants from all over the world. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the people were the poor and dispossessed: displaced native Americans, slaves of African ethnicity, and peasants from Europe, from Asia and from Latin America. Having visited Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Florida and Chicago, I know that white-skinned people are a minority in the US, and will soon not even be the largest minority. White-skinned male patricians do not outnumber other groups in the US, yet this is the category of people from which the two political parties have typically selected their candidates. Martin Luther King's dream was 40 years ago. There is part of me that is appalled that "the world and her lovers" are rejoicing about the skin colour of the person elected to be the next US President. Is it really true that these times are still so benighted?

8. The excitement and razzmatazz around Obama has enthused many people, and raised expectations into geostationary orbit. I wonder how long he will be given before people realise that he is merely the Commander in Chief of the US military, and not Superman, Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Jesus Christ merged into one super-hero.

9. I hope and believe that the world is much safer for having a Democrat, rather than a Republican, White House.

10. Had I been able to vote at a Democratic primary, I would have voted for Hillary Clinton. Had I had a vote in the US Presidential election, I would, without a shadow of a doubt, have voted for Barack Obama.
Postscript (18 July 2009)
My overall, if no-longer well-informed, sense is that Barack Obama has done a stirling job during the first six months of his office. In comparison, the UK government under Gordon Brown appears to have stumbled from crisis to crisis in remorseless succession. Whilst Obama's administration inspires hope for the future, the UK is sinking ever deeper into the mire. I should find it much easier to be proud to be American than proud to be British.

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