I follow American politics more than UK or European politics. Why, you might ask, considering I live in the UK/Europe, and not in the US of A?
American politics is kind of like professional wrestling. It’s a lot more entertaining than British politics for the most part.
On top of that, the stakes are higher, and the rhetoric is better. There are so many things in America that seem so weird from an outside perspective that colour every facet of their politics, from gun rights to political funding, to healthcare.
The fact is that legally, in America, the provisions set forth in the first amendment have been extended to corporations. That alone seems absolutely INSANE to me.
In America, idealism is often taken as absolute. There’s often rhetorical references to the American Dream and the American Experiment, as if these are still realistic or even desirable goals for the nation. These idealistic and patriotic values are often used as a way to encourage the poor to vote against their own interests, as though the only thing keeping them going is the thought that some day they may join the upper echelons of society with their superfluous riches, and any attack on them may some day come back to bite them in the ass.
On top of that, there’s a slightly worrying xenophobia and ignorance that gets played to particularly in the states bordering Mexico.
All of these factors are portrayed in the media in such a way as to polarise the response amongst the voting population of America, as if there is no room for a sensible middle ground. That’s very interesting to me, because I generally fall on the side of the Democrats, though historically I favour the Republicans of old, born out of the Whig party. There seems to have been a near total reversal of the two parties social policies caused by civil rights issues. Really my position is progressive as opposed to reactionary.
I absolutely abhor the notion that America has at any time been any kind of utopia, and that we must return to the past. Particularly in the Obama years, there has been a resurgence of anti-progressive sentiment in many sectors. There is often talk of America somehow becoming unrecognisable. Of course, this fear or anger is usually expressed as a gut feeling, and those who possess it seem to struggle to define exactly what has changed or is changing so radically since Obama took office. It’s almost as if their fears are being played to, even dictated by the media. The word liberal to me, has wonderful connotations, but in America right now, it’s tainted.
Of course, the media plays a huge part of the amazing spectacle of American politics, with various news networks and ill-informed pundits taking often absurdly partisan positions without any shame whatsoever. The difference between the right and left wing though seems to be that the left uses rationality to frame their arguments, while the right uses gut reaction and intuition. The problem is that in doing so, the right can much more easily appeal to people’s fear and anger, to what affects the listener directly, while the left struggle to gain ground with empathy and the admirable but non-inspirational idea of considering all sides of an argument.
Anyway, that’s what attracts me to American politics specifically.
Republican Nomination (or How I Learned to Hate Santorum)
Currently the Republican Party is going through what most will admit has been a damaging and thoroughly ugly campaign for nomination for the upcoming Presidential elections in November. Now at this point I’m going to through what little sense of impartiality I had out of the window to say that the fight is now between the unexciting moderate Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum, who is a horrible cunt.
Sorry. But the fact that a candidate like Rick Santorum is taken even semi-seriously as a potential candidate for the American Presidency in the year 2012 is genuinely quite frightening. He is extremely conservative, but worse than that, he is strongly religious, and seems to favour an America where Christian values dictate policy. He openly misunderstands and dismisses science and social equality in favour of his own understanding of Christian values.
Now I love the US Constitution, I think it’s a pretty swell document with some wonderful sentiments and guidelines that are important to protect. It is not flawless, but, especially with the addition of the Bill of Rights, and later amendments, it expresses a wonderful vision for governance of a nation. The first Amendment is probably my favourite part though, because it contains provisions for free speech and separation of church and state (YES I KNOW IT DOES NOT USE THOSE EXACT WORDS YOU WEIRD CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN REVISIONISTS, BUT IT MEANS EXACTLY THAT). That amendment is Jefferson’s baby, and it basically declares America as a pluralist nation, with all points of view respected and none oppressed. Speaking of said amendment, let’s read it together:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Here’s JFK pretty much hitting the nail on the head about the first part of that amendment:
Here’s what Rick Santorum thinks about that:
Rick Santorum seems to think that JFK saying the American President should not take orders from the Pope means all religions are banned from public debate. Even mid-response he seems to turn a corner from the rejecting the idea of separation of church and state, to somehow misrepresenting it as a ban on religious expression. And that is why, though I am reluctant to use the word in almost any other circumstance, I feel compelled to label Rick Santorum a dangerous and irredeemable cunt. His idiocy almost makes me throw up.
Anyway, that’s my three cents. It’s seeming pretty likely Mitt Romney will get the Republican nomination, but that Obama will retain the white house. Romney seems to have no real substance to him. I like that he’s moderate, and I like that he’s not standing on absolutist positions the way other candidates are. I actually respect that about him, because it suggests his hypothetical presidency would be about addressing the current needs of the nation, and not about pushing a reactionary and anti-progressive agenda. But he’s the best of a bad bunch.