The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Are the World

Sometimes, the best way to get a fresh look at the US presidential election is to examine how those outside of the US are reacting to the race. The MSM was eager to trumpet a worldwide poll indicating overwhelming support for Barack Obama in many countries. It’s reasonable to note. however, that each of those countries has zero electoral votes and that their interests do not always coincide with those of the United States.

As they learn that Barack Obama and John McCain are dead even in the polls, many Europeans are nonplussed. Gerard Baker of the Times of London online provides us with useful insight:
Travelling in Britain this week, I've been asked repeatedly by close followers of US politics if it can really be true that Barack Obama might not win. Thoughtful people cannot get their head around the idea that Mr Obama, exciting new pilot of change, supported by Joseph Biden, experienced navigator of the swamplands of Washington politics, could possibly be defeated.

They look upon John McCain and Sarah Palin and see something out of hag-ridden history: the wizened old warrior, obsessed with finding enemies in every corner of the globe, marching in lockstep with the crackpot, mooseburger-chomping mother from the wilds of Alaska, rifle in one hand, Bible in the other, smiting caribou and conventional science as she goes.

Two patronising explanations are adduced to explain why Americans are going wrong. The first is racism. I've dealt with this before and it has acquired no more merit. White supremacists haven't been big on Democratic candidates, whatever their colour, for a long time, and Mr Obama's race is as likely to generate enthusiasm among blacks and young voters as it is hostility among racists.

In a similarly condescending account, those foolish saps are being conned into voting for Mr McCain because they like his running-mate. Her hockey-mom charm and storybook career appeals to their worst instincts. The race is boiling down to a beauty contest in which a former beauty queen is stealing the show. Believe this if it helps you come to terms with the possibility of a Democratic defeat. But there really are better explanations.

Baker goes on the suggest that our election is really “a struggle between the followers of American exceptionalism and the supporters of global universalism.” The Democrats perceive the UN as an effective arbiter of worldwide conflict and Europe as an ideal society in which high taxes and tight business regulation are used to provide cradle to grave economic, medical, and social support for all citizens. They believe that Europe’s hesitancy (and often refusal) to enter into hard conflict is an evolved position. Republicans question the effectiveness of a corrupt UN and prefer a state that provides basic services but still insists that citizens take personal responsibility for their lives. They believe that hard power is often necessary and suggest that Euros have the luxury of conflict avoidance because the United States is there to cover their back.

I think Baker oversimplifies the situation, but he does correctly address major elements of the differences between the American right and left.

From the European point of view, Barack Obama is a natural choice. He is the epitome of what a European leader should be. It’s for that reason that they can’t understand why he isn’t leading McCain by 20 points in the polls.

Baker analyzes why many Americans are not as enamored of Obama as his compatriots in Europe:
The essential problem coming to light is a profound disconnect between the Barack Obama of the candidate's speeches, and the Barack Obama who has actually been in politics for the past decade or so.

Speechmaker Obama has built his campaign on the promise of reform, the need to change the culture of American political life, to take on the special interests that undermine government's effectiveness and erode trust in the system itself,

Politician Obama rose through a Chicago machine that is notoriously the most corrupt in the country … He [Obama] refused repeatedly to side with those lonely voices that sought to challenge the old corrupt ways of the ruling party.

Speechmaker Obama talks about an era of bipartisanship, He speaks powerfully about the destructive politics of red and blue states.

Politician Obama has toed his party's line more reliably than almost any other Democrat in US politics. He has a near-perfect record of voting with his side …

Even though the MSM has done everything in its power to blunt these inconsistencies, they are coming to light, and the public is beginning to ask hard questions. Obama now looks like any other politician, making his lack of experience, his non-existent legislative accomplishments, and his questionable associations all the more relevant.

Baker writes:
Here's the real problem with Mr Obama: the jarring gap between his promises of change and his status quo performance. There are just too many contradictions between the eloquent poetry of the man's stirring rhetoric and the dull, familiar prose of his political record.

In truth, Obama’s soaring rhetoric early in the campaign set impossibly high expectations for the man. As many questions about the man remain unanswered, he had come back down to earth. The question for his campaign is stark. Will he land smoothly and capture the presidency, or will he crash and burn. Time will tell.