For someone born and bred in the UK I spend far too much time reading about US politics, and yes, I blame “The West Wing” entirely, plus of course politics is much more enjoyable as a spectator sport.
It’s also fair to say that there’s a foggy depressing blur about the politics of Westminster; our lack of a presidential system and the fact we don’t directly elect a national government means that it’s sometimes hard to build up any steam about it without just feeling shamed, disgusted and let down by Labour, yet not evil enough to vote Tory and far too dignified to vote Lib Dem. I’m the first person to argue for more passion and less apathy about politics, but when Patricia Hewitt is your MP, it’s sometimes hard to be bothered.
Anyway, back to America. Let’s face it, we’re probably all guilty of focussing too much on the state of Washington these days. It’s far more entertaining than anywhere else and six years on, we’re still all dumbfounded here in the old world about how ludicrously incompetent, callous and plain shit Bush’s government is, how anything that would have held America in high regard has been smeared, polluted and removed in such a short space of time, that the country I grew up admiring is now the most hated country on Earth.
So then, I’ve been enthusiastically watching the first players for the 2008 election emerge and particularly the possibility, just the faint possibility that Barack Obama might find himself the front-runner. Today I bought The Audacity of Hope on iTunes and it should get me through a few bus rides home in the next few weeks. The pundits of course still point out that Hillary Clinton is the front-runner, a money-generating steam roller who is getting much more in the way of finance than Obama could ever get to. And I suppose that’s good news; Hillary was an instrumental part of Bill’s eight years, she’s a uniter for the Democrats and she has the presence to beat down the Republicans. Plus, and it really shouldn’t come down to this but it does, she’s a woman, and a woman in the White House is one big symbolic milestone for a progressive America that should have happened years ago.
Still, to me, Hillary just doesn’t excite. Perhaps it’s the playing to the crowd with cold soundbites like “young people today think work is a four-letter word” or getting caught up in (and spending public money on) tedious ‘moral outrages’ like the GTA: San Andreas ‘Hot Coffee’ scandal. But I suppose it’s mainly because her playing to the centre-ground made her vote for a disgusting criminal war in Iraq, a vote that even now she is too busy weaving, ducking and playing politics to simply admit that it was a mistake.
Perhaps there is a British angle on this after all. We’re stuck with a bunch of lying, deceitful war criminals in government right now, something that hurts all the more because they were for a time, the great new hope and now stand for nothing more than betrayal. Hillary stinks of New Labour, and the same disappointment a few years from now.