Thursday 18 September 2008

America's Chance to Usher In Something New

I tend to be quite pragmatic about politics- as opposed to principle.
Because politics is the art of the practical. So often one has to accept that it really is soap powder politics. It's about competence, not principle.

The US Presidential elections are important to the rest of the world, no two ways about it. Why? Because the US is in the extraordinary position of being able to force it's wishes in defiance of anyone else. Sometimes, the rest of the world agrees. But it doesn't matter much if it doesn't. The US doesn't actually need the support of the UN to carry out any political action, it just needs the UK to rubber stamp it's decisions, and then it all looks respectable. Because really, that's the only difference between Vietnam and Iraq. The UK and the Aussies were there to make it look a bit more respectable.

Conversely, no UN decision that lacks US support has any validity. How many sanctions has the UN imposed against Israel? Will it ever matter?

The US, through its films and other media showcases to the world what the paramount culture of the world should be. No matter how out of kilter the accepted paradigms in US culture might be with the rest of the world, these values are continually propagated across the face of the globe with far more effective force than any other values system can possibly hope to achieve.

In a very real way, through their government and its vast armed forces, the two hundred thousand citizens of the United States of America hold power over the rest of the globe.

Because it matters to us who they choose to lead them, far more than it matters to them who we choose to lead us. The leadership of America, the values it espouses, the culture it promotes, the policy decisions it makes, these affect every human being on the face of the globe.

The voters of America really do have an obligation that they themselves do not understand.
They are the trustees of global values and the trustees of global peace.
In a very real way, our lives and the sort of future the WORLD looks forward to, is in their hands.

And to me, it's all about what's on offer.

I got a little annoyed with those of my countrymen who bombarded the voters of certain Florida counties in the last election telling them to vote for Kerry. I suspect it had the reverse effect.
But also, to be fair, the main issue being competence as far as I can see it, though there are huge things wrong with the Bush Presidency and foreign policy seems to have been made up by people not much better than Ayatollahs themselves and whilst I don''t think Bush was exactly an intellectual giant, he at least seemed to have an element of confidence and know what he was doing. He probably didn't, the last eight years seem to demonstrate that, it was foreign policy dictated by a Christian version of Boy's Own Magazine, but take one look at Gore and Kerry and you can see why Bush won.

America is a big, tough, still relatively new country. If neither of the choices really offer you much change, you choose the guy who seems straight talking. I guess the idea was that Bush wasn't clever enough NOT to be sincere.

But Gore and Kerry? No wonder the Democrats hadn't a hope.

And to be honest, when this campaign started, I figured it would be Rudy Guiliani versus Hilary.
And to my mind, no question. Rudy might apparently belong to the same lot as the neo-cons and the Bible nuts, but he had proved he didn't think like them. If he could get the nomination, then one assumed he'd probably win over the people. But Republican activists it seems, preferred to cut of their noses to spite their faces.

A choice between Rudy and Hilary, it had to be Rudy. Rudy carried the wind of change with him, Hilary...

It's odd, but by choosing a black candidate with a Ghanain surname, the Democrats have played the wildcard that is perhaps the only card that could ensure the Democrats could win. Because whilst the rest of the world judges America on its foreign policy, most Americans are actually unaware that Britain is an island. The Democrats have tended in the past to talk to themselves whilst the Republicans talked to America- more usually White America, Christian America, playing banjos in the Blue Mountains America, but they manage to get their people out. And last time, they made significant advances into both the black and Catholic votes. It seemed the Democrats were being consigned to being the party of the urban coastlines.

But now it's different. America has a choice. For the first time in a long time.

The choice is simple. Allow the tide to continue as it does and let the current mould set, or break it. Change the world.

And that change isn't assured. Voting Obama in doesn't guarantee that, it might all turn out to be a damp squib. But it's the only shot America- and the rest of us- have.

Because to vote in McCain and Palin guarantees business as usual. Foreign policy will carry on as it is, with the US adopting the role the rest of us think should be reserved for the UN as a whole. It will continue to tacitly exploit divisions in its own culture, to promote 'God Bless America, One Nation Under God' as a legitimate values system, it will essentially be a white Anglo-Saxon America in which black people have a place under sufferance because lip service must be paid to Martin Luther King and Hispanics, well, we don't mind them too much, they try so hard don't they, to BE American, as long as they do that we can live with them.

It will be an America where Enron can happen again. An America where lobby groups dictate policy. It is the America of apple pie, shooting trout, The Alamo, TV Evangelists and belief in an axis of evil.
An America that exists on top of inner city racial tensions, giving CIA support to elitist governments in Latin America which float as American puppets to maintain their countries as toothless banana republics suiting the interests of the US consumer.

An America ruled by the clapping of hands in joyful chanting and the frantic writing of cheques.

What Obama offers is something new.
We've been here before.

He could be Lincoln or FDR.
But the again, he could be Kennedy.

What I mean by that, is that the first two really did change America. In ways that hurt, but ultimately were- in most people's eyes I think- good ways. To be sure, we can argue to death about the long term damage the civil war achieved, and it did, its legacy lasted at least a century. A subject for a post in it's own right sometime, maybe.
But Obama offers that sort of choice. As did FDR.

Obama just may break the mould. He's totally counter to what ANYONE thought a US President could be. And not just because he's black.

Because he's real America.

Not apple pie America, real America. The America that doesn't fit the stereotypes. The 'everyone else' America.
And that's good, not just for America, but the world. Because if America can elect Obama, that's the most positive message the world can hear. It can give ALL of us faith in ourselves. We're not that bad. We CAN overthrow prejudice, tribalism, ignorance, if America can stick two fingers up to 'God Bless America', than we can all do the same in our own ways.

Obama is about the here and now, he's about saying 'Sod the past, it's about where we are today. It's about you and me, as people, living in the world we do. What are we going to do about it?'

An Obama presidency could create a new America, just as FDR did. One where TV debates about God pass into history, where America truly becomes the democracy it pretends to be not a mixture between a plutocracy and a theocracy.
Where it truly embraces the values it espouses and becomes a culture based on the values written in its constitution, not those that it seems to think are its values.

Because actually, America has a damn good constitution- it's just that it's spent it's entire history trying to live up to it.

But yes, he could be a Kennedy.
Kennedy, I believe has one man he needs to thank. Lee Harvey Oswald. Had Kennedy served two terms, I have no doubt history would look upon him as a failed President. A man all style and no substance. Contrary to the Oliver Stone starry eyed biopic, the evidence suggests that he would have been far more keen to send troops into Vietnam than Johnson was and far less pro-active with regards to civil rights. Johnson believed wholeheartedly in civil rights, to Kennedy it was just a votewinner. I often think America doesn't realise how lucky it was it got three years of Kennedy and five years of Johnson, rather than a full eight years of Kennedy.

Kennedy is remembered for his soundbytes and his death. He is lucky he isn't remembered as being all talk and no action.

Or worse. He could be remembered as Nixon is.

And that could be the way Obama goes. A lot of fancy soundbytes, but nothing really happens.

It's true.

But I don't think America has anything to lose.

And I think the rest of the world is asking those who act as trustees for the biggest arsenal of nukes in the world; Take that chance. We're all asking you.

Take that chance.

The world will be a better place with Barack Obama being the most powerful man in it, than if Sarah Palin is the most powerful woman in it.

Americans; Please vote for Barack Obama.


Anonymous said...

This Canadian adds a hell yeah to this post.

Being right at the border of the US, we pay more attention to US election than our own upcoming election. While of course I still intend to vote in our federal election, I am saddened that I have no say in the US election. Truthfully, the impact of that election will probably be just as great for the average Canadian than our own election.

I actually just read that a study of 22 other countries found that every single one of them would vote in Obama, if they had the chance. Pretty telling stuff.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved your post! I'm so in agreement with you. Since I started socializing via internet with people who were not Americans, I have been continually struck by how they know more about what is going on in our country than the average American. Shame on us!!
The opinion journalism is awful...shameful, disgusting....I don't care if it's leftist or right-wing. It's horrible because it influences so many people who want things pre-digested for them. And it influences the right more than it does the left because the right has this huge demographic of uneducated people. Sorry, but it's true. Opinion journalism is just so damaging.

I read an article yesterday that said that the GOP stands for a huge segment of people who gravitate towards the past and are afraid of the future. They long for the 'sepia-toned' main street America which is disappearing. It is a very meaningful mythology to them and the GOP milks it for all it's worth.

But the younger the demographic, the less meaningful that myth is. Because we are in a new America which the 'minorities' will very soon will no longer be the minority. Where mainstream America seems as silly to them as the Victorians do to us.

Someone like Obama represents what is in the process of becoming the myth for them, one of those myths that appeals to you beyond logic and tugs at your heart.

Even if Obama doesn't get elected this year, he is still the face of the future. We are inexorable moving towards that and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Hopefully, it won't be too late.

I agree with you, I don't think that Obama is going to live up to all the expectations that people have of him. Actually, he probably can't. AS far as foreign policy goes, they both scare me but for different reasons. But, Obama's got to be better than what we have now.

Palin should be a non-issue. Just goes to show you how shallow it all is.

Anonymous said...

I agree that - voting for the less expierenced outweighs voting for the same old thing we have had for the past 8 years. Change is good!

Anonymous said...

I am rather keen on the MILFY lady..

Anonymous said...

You remember the old saying, the grass isn't always greener on the other side? Was mentioned that with scripted speech, Obama is great, just how good is he standing alone and speaking his for himself with his own word? Whoever gets into the oval office, there is always going to be those who want them there and those who don't. And the world still turns.

Anonymous said...

Princess P- To be honest, we're not very good at following news elsewhere in this country, either. But we do watch America- the US election will be shown live on UK TV, as it always is. It's the only election outside the UK the average citizen tends to notice.

Because it does matter, I guess. We want to know the nature of the 'special relationship', so called. It's a funny dynamic. It affects us, because the influence the UK has in the world is dependant on several things, but the main one is the nature of our relationship with the US.

We pretty much have to be America's little brother- we have no real choice, but all the more reason we care who our big brother is...

Behind Blue Eyes- I think perhaps America takes America for granted...

I don't think Americans realise that there are things which only america does. America thinks they're universal and the rest of us know otherwise.

Flippant point, but the US has a thing called the World Baseball Series. Great, but-er- where's the rest of the world?

Football, too. It means one thing to americans, and another thing entirely to the rest of the world who tend to think that the name of football suggests a game in which the ball gets kicked around.

I know that comes across as flippant, but there is a point. US culture is often quite introverted.

What worries me about the US election is that the issues have been lost sight of.

Much as I think sarah Palin is a fundie nutjob, I don't see why her daughters sexual activities have anything to do with anything.

Any more than what Obama's faith was/is/might one day be.

I think, yes the US is still stuck in the myth of Eisenhower's America, a kind of golden Age.

I guess when you look at the map in terms of who carried which states last time, it says a lot.

Because the Idahos and the Wyomings, they represent an America soon to pass into history.

I think globally, the terms minority and majority will alter context over time, anyway.

I like to think we're heading towards a coffee coloured melting pot.

It may be too late, in many ways, a lot needs to change, and that has to be a global change.
But with Obama there, progress towards that might be less painful.

With McCain in charge, expect the world to carry on driving towards the cliffs.

Cat- Something has to change. and this seems to be the most positive change conceivable. It really is.

It's such an amazing conceptual potentiality, it really is.

Not least because it will show that racism is defeated not just in theory, but in the hearts and minds of the human race.

Mutley- The Milfy lady. You mean Ms Palin, I presume.
Well, Ok, I'd probably go to bed with her as well. But that doesn't mean I'd vote for her.
In fact going to bed with her would be a good idea actually. Can't think it would go down very well amongst the Christian Right...

Nunyaa- This is a problem with democracy. Being good at speeches is very good for winning votes.

But he isn't being elected to make speeches. He's being elected to make decisions.

Decisions concerning global security.

Who do you want to have control over the biggest collection of nukes in the world, and who do you want negotiating with the even scarier people who have all the rest of them?

Who do you want making decisions regarding the regulation of the bulk of the unaccountable plutocracy who own the world's resources and infrastructure?

And the answer to me is NOT McCain.
But Obama?

Why not?

Anonymous said...

Don't worry: I'm voting for him and doing all I can to get others to do the same. He will win in my city; we are very pro-Obama, but the state (PA) is another matter. I think Palin is bad news; some women are actually voting for McCain who were originally for Hillary. Huh? These are pro-choice, liberal Baby Boomers--for McCain?

My country is bizarre--very few people realize what you wrote here, that the president of the US isn't just for us, but he affects the world. I wish Europeans could get a ballot, then Obama would surely win.

Anonymous said...

A very good post Crushed, I think you have got the right of it whereas what I read on most of the UK bloggers writing about the election is just in line with their own political views in the UK.

Princess Pointful said what many Canadians think. If only we could vote since we are so much influenced by the result.

I have a few doubts about Obama but he is the only choice between those two in my mind and his success, if elected will all depend so much on who he chooses as his advisers. Hopefully he will choose wisely for the current huge financial problems in the US and the stock market meltdown will need to be dealt with as a top priority.

Anonymous said...

I would actually be surprised to find out that most Americans thought that Britain was something other than an island. I would be less surprised if they thought it was a US state.

Actually, I knew. But then again, I lived in London for a brief spell.

I could almost sense the disappointment of the international community with reinstallment of W (I don't believe he was ever rightfully elected). Kinda as if we put a gun in the hands of a drunken, belligerant bully.