Thursday, 6 November 2008

Some thoughts on the US elections

Though the polls have been predicting it for months, though we've been talking about it for more than a year, though it was going to be an extremely difficult for any Republican to win after the disastrous years of George W Bush, it still feels a little unreal.

The Democrats didn't screw it up. And America has a black first family.

I've been addicted to this election campaign, with its endless twists and compelling personalities, from the first primaries on. Not so long ago, the smart money would have been on Hillary Clinton vs Rudy Guiliani. And now here we are.

I'm going to miss it.

Some thoughts:

1) Obama, for all his intelligence, calmness and amazingly uplifting oratory, will inevitably be a disappointment. The hopes that are invested in him are impossibly high and the challenges impossibly huge. This is not eight years ago, when Bush came in to peace and prosperity. The global economy - and the West's in particular - is sliding rapidly downhill. America is fighting two wars, which may both be unwinnable. Iran is looking to get nukes and North Korea already has them. Africa is full of as many horror stories as ever. And, worst of all, the world is warming as resources shrink.

2) For the reasons above - plus that the next election won't see blacks, Hispanics and the young as fired up for historic change - there's a very good chance that Obama will be a one-term president.

3) But he can't be counted out. Yes, he's fairly inexperienced in government, but he also ran perhaps the best political campaign of modern times. That shows he's got the ability to assemble, direct and inspire a great team. Not bad attributes for a president.

4) You have to feel a bit sorry for John McCain. He seems like a good man and was the best candidate the Republicans could have selected, but he was running against history and was caught between a rock and a hard place politically. He's too moderate to energise the guns, guts and God crowd, so he chose Palin and moved to the right. For example, though he's been tortured and has opposed the Bush administration's sanctioning of it, he didn't stand up against waterboarding. But then he was too conservative for the moderates and made it a lot easier for Obama to paint him as Bush, mark two.

5) McCain didn't run a good campaign, either morally or politically. For example, there were some ugly implications that Obama was unAmerican, particularly from Palin. He lurched from position to position over the economy, coming out with policies seemingly at random, grandstanding over the first debate and generally coming across as reckless and impulsive. So while it wasn't a classy campaign, his concession speech was one heck of a classy finish.

6) When you see something like this video and this one, even if you're to the right of the political spectrum you'd be a hard-hearted person not to feel moved about what just happened.

7) We're going to see Leonard Cohen next week. I really hope he plays 'Democracy'.

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