Tuesday 26 August 2008

US Elections - Will you take the Red or Blue Pill?

So, the Democratic Convention has finally opened. Back in January 21st, I predicted that John McCain would win the Republican nomination, and Hillary Clinton the Democratic one. I also predicted that if Hillary did win the nomination, it McCain would win by a small margin, whereas if Obama won it, it would be too close to call before the election: a 50-50 tie.

A little bit later, I, like many others, decided to switch votes (from Hillary) and back Obama. There were a range of reasons for this, but primarily the fact that I didn’t trust the Clintons to keep the business of the country above their personal business, and I didn’t feel that the incremental changes promised on the Clinton campaign site would lead to anything. To my vast surprise, he won the primaries. He’s run an incredible campaign, and it keeps getting better. By contrast, the McCain campaign gets worse and worse.

And this brings us to the Convention. I’m amazed. I knew we had entered the age of “MTV Politics”, but I didn’t quite realize how prevalent this is. We have the corporate sponsors, opening acts, balloons, everything except the fireworks, and I’m sure those will be coming soon. How fortunate the Convention was scheduled after the Beijing Olympics.

Pundit after pundit gravely inform me that this is all necessary, that elections aren’t about policy platforms, but about personality and running a good campaign? Really? How sad. Here I was complimenting myself on making an informed decision on who to vote for based on their internet platforms, and now I have to change my mind, again?

Quite simply, I believe that Barack Obama is the candidate most suited to lead the US in the 21st Century. This statement comes with a number of caveats: As I’ve already stated, I doubt Barack Obama will be able to pay for many of his promises. Many other promises – such as the pledge to re-negotiate NAFTA or tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – are unhelpful or disingenuous. The solutions to other problems, such as tax competitiveness and reform of the financial regulatory system, are barely mentioned. But on the whole, he’s the most suitable candidate. We can re-phrase this as the “least bad choice.”

And given that the other candidate promises to bankrupt the country by continuing business as usual, this is good enough. Despite my respect for his life story, I don’t see how John McCain’s foreign policy experience or “character” are the best options. As Frank Rich wrote on August 23rd: Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe? Not to mention the Iraq invasion, and the fact that he apparently doesn’t use email. Hello?

I must also confess that I’ve entered the post-euphoric stage of political engagement in this election. Honestly speaking, “a pox on both your houses.” The entire process is ridiculous. A game show convention. Media stupidity. The war of polls. Negative advertising. Political promises that no one can keep, or are unrelated to the root causes of the problem (and therefore do not present a real solution). Projections that over $ 1.5 billion will be spent on the Presidential election alone this year.

It’s a disgusting, unwholesome mess which serves almost no useful purpose that I can see, except to seduce a number of participants in the belief of their own importance and, perhaps, relevance. Welcome to the “desert of the real.” Do we really have a choice, or is this all a grand illusion?

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