Monday, 11 February 2008

Election USA...there's another 8 months of this rubbish!

Hat-tip: Get Your War On

I've tried really hard, I truly have, but I've been through the newspapers and been on the Net and I've had extreme difficulty finding anything of substance about the policies of, let alone policy differences between, the main candidates in the US Presidential campaign. Indeed, the only candidate who seems to have anything different to say is Ron Paul. He is a social reactionary, but he was opposed the war in Iraq from day one, talks about American "imperialism" and is opposed to moves towards a North American Union. He'd make a good Libertarian Party candidate, as he was in 1988.

As for the Democrats: Hilary Clinton seems to be appealing to voters on the grounds that she represents "experience" and is a woman, while Barak Obama's appeal is that he's non-white and represents "change". That's it. Nothing approaching ideological or policy differences at all. As Andrew Stephen wrote recently (in an article which makes a refreshing change from the Barak-mania doing the rounds at the moment):

"Politically, there is remarkably little difference between the three leading Democrats- Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards."

I realise that the over-the-top enthusiasm for the US Presidential elections in the media here (apart from being a consequence of becoming a de facto 51st State?) is that, for many people with power and money, it is a normative model for General Elections here. Candidates with no major policy differences, just images, sound-bites and "values" to uphold.

Update: Reading The Guardian this morning, I find Peter Wilby laying into the media circus around the US Elections and the euphoria found amongst the commenting classes here:

Interest in the game eclipses the message

I don't want to spoil the fun, but I wonder if British columnists are getting a little too excited about the US elections. In the Guardian, for example, Timothy Garton Ash, writing after Super Tuesday, saw it as a triumph for the "soft power of democracy". He reckoned you could "strike up a conversation with a complete stranger in any bar in any city on any continent" and ask whether he or she was backing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But the more pertinent question would be whether, even in America, the stranger had the first idea as to what either candidate would do in office.

The Pew research centre in Washington estimated, even before the voting started, that two-thirds of media coverage was dedicated to "the game" rather than to the political content of the candidates' campaigns. American political writers, like our own dear Westminster hacks, find it hard to wrestle with policies and ideologies, and largely duck out of their responsibility to make such things accessible and interesting. The result is that US presidential candidates, when they take office, are hardly at all constrained by electoral commitments, except to corporations and pressure groups who provided the campaign funds. And this is the electoral system commentators hold up for our admiration.

Garton Ash compared the Clinton-Obama contest to "an exciting horse race or a well-made soap opera". Precisely.

BTW I would probably vote Green in November if I was a US Citizen. However, I'm not, however much the UK's media and political classes would like us to be!

1 comment:

Oliver said...

i can see little difference between the presidential race and the miss universe competition... though i guess you need a little more moohlah to enter a presidential race and thank goodness we don't have to see clinton or mccain in swimsuits...

on the other hand i wouldn't mind seeing obama in a swimsuit and that's why he's getting my vote... or at least he would if i was american.