Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The absurdity of American politics

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I suppose to some extent we have all been unduly influenced by America. For me it started when the Marines gave us rides in open top Jeeps and packets of delicious tasting chewing gum during World War II. From then on we were bombarded with the Los Angeles culture in movies and then television and the obsession continues as exhibited by the Auckland glitterati who were fawning over Quentin Tarantino when he paid us a flying visit last week.

My own ongoing fascination is probably influenced by a lifelong subscription to Time magazine and as a result I have perhaps an unhealthy interest in American politics. Time arrives weekly and has become more liberal in its editorial stance over the years. To balance this I watch Fox News which is about as conservative as you can get. So I run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.

I have learnt that the race for the American presidential nomination is bizarre. At the time of writing the Democratic nominee may well be extreme left wing socialist Bernie Sanders who is polling ahead of Hilary Clinton in the crucial primary states. Sanders catch-cry “I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process” has resonated and he has raised millions for his campaign through small donations.

Meanwhile Ms Clinton is apparently losing favour with young American women voters, many of whom weren’t even born at the time of her husband’s dalliances with Ms Lewinsky and other previous trysts. It seems they are not impressed that she stood by her man, Tammy Wynette style, instead of ditching him as modern womanhood decrees.

Bill’s appearances at her rallies can therefore be a two-edged sword.

On the other side of the great divide the likely Republican nominee is ultra-conservative Donald Trump who is despised by the mainstream media, but against all odds is becoming a champion of the hoi polloi.

Surprisingly Trump has supported both the Democratic and Republican parties in the past and therefore believes he will get bipartisan support, but he has upset so many minority sectors of the population it’s hard to imagine that he would be electable. Being unpopular however is apparently a blessing for contestants. His nearest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, is said to be “hated” by his fellow senators, but he wears this as a badge of honour to prove he is not one of the establishment politicos.

You can’t believe in a country of 300 million inhabitants these aspirants are the best options to take charge of the biggest economy on earth. The Republicans have put up a coterie of credible candidates including businesswoman Carly Fiorina, one-time CEO of Hewlett Packard, Ben Carson a personable African-American neurosurgeon and young Cuban-American Florida Senator Marco Rubio, all of whom seem to possess the hallmarks of presidential leadership. But against the populous Trump pronouncements they aren’t making any traction.

Also in the line-up of the potential Republican candidates is Jeb Bush. If he’s nominated and elected that means three Bush presidents.

The other two hardly set the world on fire - although on reflection George W. very nearly did.

“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” - Alexis de Tocqueville


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