I find myself unnaturally interested in American politics. I have been ever since Mad magazine introduced me, satirically, to President Carter in the 70s and I was forced to learn about his predecessors in order to understand the jokes. Clearly, around Presidential Election time, my interest swells. As a loyal and voracious subscriber to the New Yorker since 2005, I am fed information on a weekly basis about the comings and goings not just of the Democrats the left-leaning magazine explicitly supports, but also of the colourful Republicans and Tea Party luminaries who, since Obama’s election in 2008, have been jostling for position to take him down. (As you can see above, I attended the CNN Election Night party in November 2008, held in a church in London, and watched the early results come in with other political junkies – and some freeloaders – although we were, ironically I think, kicked out before the decisive states were called. They handed out partisan badges on the way in. )
I have been following the progress of this year’s Republican hopefuls with long-distance enthusiasm and bemusement, as they seem a particularly rum bunch. One of them will actually be challenging a frankly damaged Obama for his second term; it’s sometimes hard to believe that any of this shower could run a country, but then, look at George W. Bush, a man who wore his downhome ignorance on his sleeve and won two terms – or at least, got in twice.
We’ve lost Lutheran congresswoman and climate change denier Michelle Bachmann since the Iowa caucuses, which in terms of morbid entertainment value is a shame. (After all, she’s the Tea Party nutter of choice, post-Palin, accusing Obama of being “anti-American,” trying to get rid of energy-saving lightbulbs, gunning to get the minimum wage capped, and damning same-sex marriage from a pulpit where the Pope is considered the anti-Christ, if I’ve read the literature properly.)
Of the other column-inch-snaffling front runners, former restaurant tycoon, business lobbyist and Baptist talk radio show host Herman Cain also withdrew, before Christmas, after allegations of sexual misconduct, which is another blow for entertainment value, as he seemed not to have a clue what he would do if elected to office, other than cut tax to a basic 9% across the board. Doesn’t really matter, as he will never take office.
What’s frightening about these grinning, glad-handing, evangelical loons is that one of them could theoretically capitalise on the right-facing zeitgeist and beat Obama in November, taking office in 2013. After all, Republicans do get in. And the electorate does seem pretty disappointed with Obama, on both left and right, and especially in the middle, which is where elections are won and lost. Last week’s New Yorker provided profiles of both Ron Paul – the gurning 76-year-old Texan obstetrician and “white-haired, wide-eyed prophet” who seriously wants to ban Income Tax and end all foreign aid – and Newt Gingrich – “Mr Speaker”, political veteran, “swashbuckling geostrategist” and inveterate debate winner who shut down the federal government during the Cinton era over Medicare premiums, earned $1.6 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage lender, and recently made reference to the “invented Palestinian people.” Of this loopy pair, it’s Gingrich who was seen as the biggest threat to Mitt Romney. (Good heavens, they have excellent names, the Republicans, you have to hand that to them.) But Rick Santorum almost caught up with Romney in Iowa. He’s the Fox News-friendly ex-senator and attorney with the goofy grin who was just eight votes behind Romeny in Iowa, and is an intelligent design fan, considers sodomy to be “antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family” and seems to think that liberal values are to blame for the Catholic child abuse scandal.
Mitt Romney is a Massachusetts Mormon and CEO of management buyout merchants Bain, who “kept a well-groomed appearance” at university during the campus upheavals of the 60s, according to a Boston Globe profile, seems to have built his reputation as a can-do kinda guy on his miraculous turnouaround of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 1988 and is not to the tastes of the more evangelical wing of his party because a) he’s a Mormom, and b) he used to be pro-choice, but switched to being pro-life in 2005. This reputation for u-turns dogs him; he certainly upped his far-right views during his 2008 run for Presidential nomination. He seems like a slick wheeler-dealer and kind of looks like a President.
Post-Bachmann, they’re all men of a certain age, which is boring, and they all seem to conform to the image of an American politician, from the relatively youthful John Huntsman, 51, to the 76-year-old Paul. In other words, they either look like James Brolin or John Mahoney, and all points inbetween. Rick Perry is the most Bush-like of the current crop, the grinning Governor of Texas, former Eagle Scout, USAF pilot and “hyper-masculine cowboy” who sets out his stall in a YouTube video, saying “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, and your kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas”; Gingrich is the most experienced in the ways of Washington, and Romney still seems fresh from his failed attempt to run in 2008. They would all strip the financial industry of what little in the way of regulation remains and “shrink” government, which is the Republican creed. If any of these reptiles gets in, taxes will be lowered, or scrapped, and Iran will either be ignored (if Ron Paul gets in: “no more foreign wars; no more foreign aid; not even very much foreign policy”, according to Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker), or nuked (if any of the others get in).
I will continue to follow this dangerous soap opera closely. They’re in New Hampshire right now for tomorrow’s vote, with Huntsman – another Mormon, also a former Reagan staffer, Utah Governor and ambassador to China under Obama whose “moderate” views play well to more liberal-minded Republicans – endorsed by a number of key local publications. There’s still everything to play for.
For anyone not in the least bit interested in US politics – I fear we ignore these God-fearing, gun-toting, gay-bashing, healthcare-hating, people at our peril.
So it’s an out-and-out psychopath or Ron Paul (who seems to have some vestige of integrity about him, although patently wrong about most things) OR another term of the man who just signed indefinite detention for citizens without trial into law.
Of course there are other candidates, from parties outside the two flanks of the Business Party some of whom might actually do a better job, but we will probably never hear about them.
Looking good for the future USA!
American politicians make even our current public school haranguing during PMQ’s seem intelligent and civilised.
I had to laugh when Dan Savage gay rights campaign got internet search engines to define a “santorum” as a “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex” in retalitation for Santorum’s anti-gay claptrap.
Thats the level of poltical debate in the US right now.
People should take notice of US politics because it’s coming over here. Essentially, it’s the death of political debate. Any party that needs to wrap itself in Religion and the Constitution…
And after watching Borgen, I’m moving to Denmark.
(But wasn’t there a similar series on UK TV, back in the ’80s?)
That may be A Very British Coup.
(Answers own question. Collins fails.)
Cant help but think you are a bit dismissive of “Ron Paul – the gurning 76-year-old Texan obstetrician and “white-haired, wide-eyed prophet” who seriously wants to ban Income Tax and end all foreign aid”
He believes in liberty, non-interventionism, living within ones means and a sound currency. The establishment hate him but his message appeals to young people as well as those who realise that the game is up and the USA is bankrupt. He will be vilified by both parties as well as their bought and paid for media mouthpieces and if he makes any traction I would be concerned that he may have an unfortunate “accident”
Didn’t mean to be unnecessarily dismissive, Michael. I have no inside track, and I write from across the other side of a very big ocean, picking up my information from what I read and see in the media. Lemann in the New Yorker described him as the “white-haired, wild-eyed prophet”, which seems to me a fairly romantic image! The piece goes on to say, “he offers the clearest program of any of the candidates” and casts him as the “protest candidate.” You must admit though, his plan to abolish Income Tax – and the IRS – is extreme.
Ron Paul is so radical that he’s hard to place using a traditional political compass. Some of what he’s saying probably makes sense, but how he’d achieve any of it is anyone’s guess. Wide-eyed prophet is probably about right. But then when you look at the rest of them…
This campaigning is so incredibly refined (for want of a better word – distilled?) that there’s almost no substance there at all. It’s all about not being caught out, not saying the wrong thing. So most of the time they end up saying nothing at all. It’s hardly the most original idea that there has to be something wrong with anyone who believes he should be running the country. But there clearly are things wrong with every one of these candidates. So they’re all standing there looking like rejected Just For Men models and trying desperately not show what is absolutely obvious to anyone who cares to look at them: they are last people who should be running anything.
I never was Obama’s biggest fan (he’s OK with it, it’s all right). I thought Clinton would have made a better president. Maybe I still do. But at least I can say I haven’t been particularly disappointed by him. It was a tough time to become president and for the most part he’s looked appropriately serious and sought and taken the right advice (not a criticism – it’s an important skill). At this stage I can’t see a GOP candidate who won’t look like an alien next to him. If the US economy continues to pick up then he may just be able to ride it to victory. Here’s hoping anyway.
It isn’t surprising that many Americans have names that sound odd to us. But it does surprise me that there aren’t more “traditional” biblical names in the list of presidents for the last century or so. My favourite name is that of US TV presenter Hoda Kotb, the name being Egyptian. I can’t see it, or her, without thinking of the New Kids On The Block.
The racism from Ron Paul’s past newsletters is a bit concerning.
As an American and general human being, I feel absolutely disgusted that any politician who proclaims this load of crap (as they’ve all done in some fashion) while simultaneously dismantling any form of help to those less fortunate than themselves is nauseatingly horrible. In a few short words: I hate my country’s politics, especially because I’m currently stuck here. These people are grotesque, which is quite obvious.
However, from the point of general entertainment value, I will Miss Michele Bachmann as much as I do having Bush Jr. for president. The gaffes were too great (such as “CO2 is not a lethal gas” — I’d love to see her test that theory in a Schroedinger’s Cat kind of way), and now we’re just stuck with far too many stereotypical and sociopathic, rich, white men who have no concept about the world their constituents are living in. Well, that, and a guy whose name was associated with a bodily fluid thanks to The Daily Show.