Archives for posts with tag: presidential election

This election has been the most amazing one in my lifetime. From day one, the Trump campaign has been extraordinary, with regular candidates tossed aside like bowling pegs, one after the other. I do not yet know the outcome of today’s election, but I’m hoping fervently that Hillary makes it across the finish line today – finally stopping this runaway dumpster truck from seizing the highest office in America.

Normally, the dissection of a political battle involves picking through what the winning candidate did right and what the losing candidate did wrong. Should Clinton win, the story should be about how she fought an effective media battle, how she decisively won the debates, how she courted celebrities and rock stars, fought a well-financed ground war and made effective use of analytics. It should be about the long succession of Trump scandals, fiascos and unforced errors, from the Khans to Pussygate, to his atrocious debate performances; his alienation of Latinos, African Americans, women and Muslims; his unedifying spats with his fellow Republican politicians. In ordinary times, you could write a story of these last few months in terms of what was done right by Hillary and wrong by Trump. But these are not ordinary times. The real story of this campaign is how, despite all the errors and disasters, Trump remained in contention and how seemingly smaller setbacks and mistakes sent Clinton’s campaign into a nosedive. Trump survived a video laying his misogyny bare for all to see. He survived a leak which suggested that he paid no tax for decades.  He survived, despite being called out on lie, after lie, after lie. Any one of these should have been enough to put paid to his political aspirations. And yet, when Clinton suffered a bout of pneumonia, or called his supporters ‘deplorable’, or had the FBI resurrect the email investigation, she quickly found herself on the back foot, fighting a desperate battle to maintain her lead.

The story of this election was how, among a large number of supporters, Trump was treated like a demigod, while Clinton was treated with extreme scepticism, bordering on disgust. Trump effectively used hatred, anger and his charisma to marshall powerful forces in his favour, sending out a clear signal that America is extremely vulnerable to demagoguery. How the country recovers from this frightening state of affairs will be a whole other story.

obama-speech

I have the happy fortune to be in California at the moment to witness a piece of history. The excitement all day was palpable. I was consulting my iPhone all evening as the results started to flow through. Then, sooner than expected, it was all over. Obama had crossed the line of 270 electoral votes and quickly had over 300 votes in the bag. All over bar the shouting, as they say in Ireland.

This is a terrific day for so many Americans. I was in a bar at the time and the whole place went silent when Obama stood up to deliver his victory speech. There were tears in peoples’ eyes. The king is dead*, long live the king.

* Well, metaphorically, and even then not until January… All the fun has been taken out of the modern day political leadership changes, don’t you think? No tumbrils, guillotines, or even chopping blocks these days. Such utter killjoys..

Like most people around the world, I am absolutely hooked on the upcoming American presidential election. It seems to me as if history is being played out in front of our eyes. It’s my belief that, with the now almost certain victory of Barack Obama, America is about to change forever.

I don’t think that the likes of a George Bush (or Sarah Palin for that matter) will ever get elected to the highest office again. This is the beginning of the end of the Christian Right’s domination of American politics.

Why do I think this? One word. Irrelevance.

America’s right wing built its power selling myths to its people. God, guns and gasoline, the belief that America was somehow special and superior to all others. A fear of the outside world. Ferocious self reliance – no safety nets and little care for those that do not make it.

Like a living organism, ideas need a context in which to survive and thrive. America’s relative isolation provided that context. It allowed many of its citizens to believe that they were superior, that life really was a clear and definable struggle of good against evil and that the resources of the world were somehow inexhaustable.

No more. Technology, education, cheap travel, globalisation, climate change, international terrorism and the failure of classical American foreign policy have punctured this myth, with only the most ardent believers (and there are still many of them) continuing to hold out defiantly.

It’s becoming increasingly more evident that, for America to prosper, to compete, and to address complex challenges such as disease pandemics, global warming, nuclear proliferation, financial meltdown and terrorism, it must engage constructively with the rest of the world. With the vessel of isolationism in retreat, the carefully nurtured myths that held fast to its hull have no home to go to.

Lest my American friends think that I am attempting to paint America as one homogeneous, naive, reactionary mass, nothing could be further from the truth. What I am describing is not some overnight phenomenon. Many Americans “get” this changed reality, and have done for years, if not decades. The election of Obama, I believe, will be the tipping point, where the prevailing ideology of the isolationists will finally become a minority view. To regain the upper hand, Republicanism will need to reinvent itself, but given the arch-conservatism of its support base, this is no easy task.

But what do I know? I don’t come from there, nor do I live there, but fascinated in the country I will always be.

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