The US Presidential Election: For what we are about to receive…

Reading  Glenn Greenwald’s piece in Pete Baker’s previous post  will reinforce in the minds of many their negative views of the American political process and the Presidential elections, and that’s even  before we start getting personal about US presidents with our own favourite stories about their stupidity and iniquity.

This  negative coverage will increase exponentially as the election reaches a climax, it always does, and many will sneer  and feel superior  little realising USA today, UK tomorrow alright  at the next election, indeed Brit analysts  are surely embedded already  in the respective camps.

But let’s just remind ourselves of why America is worthy of our admiration and gratitude. This list is based on one I copied years ago from a BBC messageboard, beyond that I don’t have a source.

For Americans to be able to elect and not re-elect  the most powerful man or woman in the world is quite simply…….. democratic.

  1.  That they  have the moral and political strength to impeach Presidents.
  2. That they can  go to war with itself over the issue of slavery.
  3. That they can  hold together as one nation  vastly separated peoples, both in distance and culture.
  4. For the last 50 years to be the sole power strong enough and willing enough to defend the freedoms of the western world.
  5. To be wise and magnanimous enough to transform  Japan and Germany from broken, defeated fascist dictatorships  to healthy democracies with powerful economies.
  6. The American Dream. Through hard work, frugality, and self sacrifice people can achieve financial success and social mobility.
  7. Their idealism. They helped create the UN, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation.
  8. Their belongingness. A million people a year take the oath of allegiance by choice.
  9. Their role as a world policeman protecting shipping lanes.
  10. Their willingness to accept  foreign nationals who move to the USA for higher education, who either remain  or  return to their home country, taking their skills with them.

I think that’s enough to be going on with but already  I hear the first brickbat.

Yes I know I’m self delusional and that America has lots of ills and inequalities, and has committed many foul deeds in the name of democracy and freedom, and is far from perfect. But, and this is a big BUT. America exists. Utopias do not.

Bring on the Presidential election but less of the sneering please.

By the way Langley is watching; contributors  may be  extradited.

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  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Indeed it’s easy to get see America as hopelessly delusional when you watch the GOP convention, as I did on the iPlayer last night. The assembled Republican zealots had come for a cheer-fest, not political analysis of course – and the shots of the crowd were regular reminders of those aspects of American culture that are hard to relate to from this side of the pond: the fist-pumping jingoism, the fake-smile-image-consciousness (yes even among ‘down to earth’ conservatives), maudlin attempts to tug at heart strings aplenty etc etc. But I also thought Romney’s speechwriters hit a few strong notes in trying to connect with Americans’ image of themselves:
    1. the idea that America is a nation of people who had the get up and go to leave their old lives and start anew – that they are somehow more energetic, more honest, more demanding, just *better* than the people they left behind (and their descendants, us)
    2. that America was founded also on freedom of choice – making your own way. The nice trick here is that it making a choice in the context of the election means putting a new man in charge. Sticking with Obama is identified with drifting along passively, like the weak people Americans’ forefathers left behind. The American thing to do is to assert control.

    Much of this is nonsense of course but you’re right to say America is there, utopias aren’t – and for many, it’s the closest thing in the real world to an opportunity to create your own utopia. The fact that it’s become hellish for many – and that America shares the same economic problems as much of the rest of the world – is ignored of course! American exceptionalism is a powerful thing, both for Americans and for the rest of us. We want and even need America to be different.

  • Mick Fealty

    [articles, talk to me about html markup?]

    I did not visit the US until I was in my late 40s. I’d never had any desire to go there though like most of us (particularly since the onset of the internet era) I’ve always found its democracy intriguing.

    On that occasion, I meet Andrew Brietbart in Hollywood (like my own home town only wrongly spelt of course) of all places. He was not in manic mode but he explained what his main frustrations were: the monocular political vision of the US press.

    He did go on to do some pretty stupid things, but in my estimation he was not wrong in his general estimation of how the left had captured not simply the news media, but the Hollywood myth making machine about America itself.

    The American many of us foreigners feel in love with (whatever our later political convictions about its singular role in the world) was created on tv (just watch Piers Morgan’s interview with Dan Rather on Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom for confirmative myth making) and in film in Hollywood..

    The odd dry old stick like Clint Eastwood, and before him Charlton Heston, exemplifies just how all pervasive the left within that machine…

  • stephen17

    A few objections. . .

    1. Impeachment has been used (substantially) twice. Once after the Civil War where it was used in a policy fight, and once in the 1990s where Clinton faced an impeachment vote for, essentially, getting a little something on the side.

    2. The Civil War was not simply a moral war, as it’s generally represented in modern history, a large factor was the economic balance struggles between North and South.

    3. They are not one nation. Not in any sense. Beverly Hills, suburban Washington DC, Long Island – one nation. South Central LA, the Bronx, Baltimore or Atlanta, another nation. A single unified nation does not have such racialised and ethnicised politics.

    4. Freedoms of the Western World = geopolitical and economic supremacy. That’s a little hippie, I admit, but they’re not sticking US flags in every capital in the Middle East for pluralism, it’s for oil.

    5. Germany and Japan transformed for self-interest as part of the Cold War.

    6. American Dream is dead. Through hard work, frugality, self sacrifice and being born into a family that can buy a good education and health-care.

    7. The three organisations you mention under idealism are all fairly West-centric.

    8. Dunno where you got thsose statistics but that pledge of Allegiance participation rate doesn’t dull the fact that one of the two major parties in the US want illegal immigrants to “self-deport.” I.e., get the hell out.

    9. World policeman in their own interest.

    10. Any attempt to represent the U.S. as in any way immigrant-friendly in substance (despite the whole “nation of immigrants” image) is miles off.

    Sorry. Brickbat #1 thrown. . .you’re right when you say America exists and utopia does not, but the real America is so far removed from the utopian America that is commonly presented to the world it’s a worthless comparison.

  • wild turkey

    Articles

    well i am american but definetly not into the star bangled banner jive-talk. i assume neither are you.

    your ten above are indeed inspiring, as a school boy during the Eisenhower, Kennedy years we were ‘taught’ most if not all the points. a few observations on your points?

    1. That they have the moral and political strength to impeach Presidents. YUP. MR NIXON. A REPUBLICAN AS I RECALL LARGELY SUPPORTED BY HIS PARTY UNTIL THE FINAL DISCOVERY OF THE ‘SMOKING GUN’ TAPE. CHECK OUT HUNTER THOMPSONS OBIT OF THE MAN. SEZ IT ALL
    2.That they can go to war with itself over the issue of slavery. ARGUABLY, THE WAR FROM LINCOLNS POINT OF VIEW WAS TO MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY OF THE FEDERAL UNION. THE SOUTH SECEEDED ON THE BASIS OF ‘STATES RIGHTS’ THE SAME ‘STATES RIGHTS’ AGENDA PURSUED BY REPUBLICAN/TEA PARTY WINGNUTS TO PURSUE BLATANTLY RACIST POLICIES.
    3.That they can hold together as one nation vastly separated peoples, both in distance and culture. THE LAST OPINION POLLING RESULTS I AM AWARE OF, ZERO, YUP ZERO, PERCENT OF BLACKS POLLED FAVOURED ROMNEY. I WONDER WHY?
    4.For the last 50 years to be the sole power strong enough and willing enough to defend the freedoms of the western world. WELL TO SOME EXTENT IN BOSNIA AND KOSOVA. BUT IT MIGHT BE A HARD PITCH TO MAKE TO IRAQIS, AFGHANS, PALESTIANS AND currently SYRIANS
    5.To be wise and magnanimous enough to transform Japan and Germany from broken, defeated fascist dictatorships to healthy democracies with powerful economies. IT TOOK PLACE UNDER A DEMOCRATIC ADMINISTRATION. COULD YOU SEE THE CURRENT REPUBLICAN PARTY CONTENANCING ANYTHING SIMILAR? SERIOUSLY?
    6.The American Dream. Through hard work, frugality, and self sacrifice people can achieve financial success and social mobility. IN AGGREGATE AND EN MASSE, A MYTH WELL PAST IT SELL BY DATE. PROBABLY SINCE THE EARLY 70s OIL CRISIS.
    7.Their idealism. They helped create the UN, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation. A YES WORLD GOVT. A REAL RIGHTWING REPUBLICN/TEA PARTY FAVOURITE
    8.Their belongingness. A million people a year take the oath of allegiance by choice. A LOT MORE THAN A MILLION WOULD LIKE TO AND ARE DENIED THE OPPORTUNITY
    9.Their role as a world policeman protecting shipping lanes.
    PROTECTING THE FLOW OF FOREIGN OIL TO THE US? AT BEST A MIXED TRACK RECORD ONE ON ONE AGAINST SOMALIAN PIRATES
    10.Their willingness to accept foreign nationals who move to the USA for higher education, who either remain or return to their home country, taking their skills with them. GIVE THIS ONE A PASS. AT LEAST THERE IS NO EQUIVALENT TO THE CURRENT LONDON MET UNIV SHAMBLES IN THE STATES THAT I AM CURRENTLY AWARE OF.

    All the above said, when my children were born in belfast i made damn sure they got their american passports and citizenship papers…. and my sentimental pot belly has grown to such grotesque proportions that i still have a sneaking regard, and pride, for the old Lincolnian sentiment that america, for all its faults flaws and fuck-ups, is still the earths last best chance…. i know,,,, i know

    good luck mr art

  • Ruarai

    Mick,

    sorry but what are you talking about old boy?

    Whatever is wrong with the American media (its press is miles better than the UK’s) Brietbart was both a symptom and a cause. A simply risible fellow.

    But your thing about the “left” – citing Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston. You simply must elaborate here – or pull back.

    Eastwood is a well known Republican who has made a career making libertarian films (that I love) and that liberals in Hollywood hate and describe as fascist. Charlton “Cold Dead Hands” Heston is about as representative of conservative America as it’s possible to be.

    Please explain your points here.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I often wonder what that “earth’s last best chance” thing is. As in, if the USA disappears beneath the waves it will take the rest of the world with it ? I have a bit of a hard time with that one. The USA is as much a product of the modern world as the modern world is of it, but such views are, I suspect, a consequence of the feeling of impermeability that results from the place being such a huge and militarily impenetrable country.

    Regarding the article itself, there is a lot of positive stuff about the USA, the list of good things is long. But there are also problems, present and future, and the adherence to notions of patriotism and national greatness serve to hide this idea. When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago on the TV I saw Dick Cheney and others talking about “American exceptionalism”. When I researched this idea I found out that it is another way to say what is essentially blind patriotism. This seemed to be in response to the current President pointing out, from time to time, that there may be occasions where it is appropriate to look at what other modern countries do better and see what can be learned from them. How can a serious discussion of the country’s problems and how they are to be solved be conducted in the face of an unremitting belief that the country’s own greatness will lead to problems solving themselves ? The emphasis on the oath of allegiance and seeing footage of classrooms of little kids holding their hands in the air gives off what a lot of Europeans would see as a disturbing air of youth indoctrination.

    I don’t think democracy in the USA is especially healthy. For example right now the choice is between two Harvard Law School graduates who differ mainly on what the rest of the world would consider details. The political system is designed to ensure that the mandate of each branch of government is kept in check to the extent that party political manipulation can be deployed to ensure that governments cannot effectively respond to major crises. “American exceptionalism” and blind faith in the almost God-like esteem the Founders are held in dampens any debate over how reform can solve these matters. At state level, so many officials are elected to so many different kinds of public body that it is hard to keep track of who is doing what.

    On the Republican convention, it really seemed to smack of farce most of the time, even more so than a meeting of Ulster Unionist delegates. Ann Romney’s contribution was bizarre but it was usurped by the screwup that was Clint Eastwood. Had Eastwood stepped on stage and said a few choice words about guns, taxes, small government and all the usual I’m sure he’d have brought the house down. The idiot who thought it would be worthwhile to have an imaginary conversation with an invisible President Obama should be taken out and shot. There are now several moments which I think will be seen as the points where the Obama victory was in the bag, and that would be one of them.

  • ThomasMourne

    I cannot accept the idea of the US President as the most powerful man in the world when he is under the thumb of the biggest military-industrial complex on earth.

    A Nobel Peace prize winner who authorises almost daily drone attacks against supposed enemies in Pakistan or Afghanistan is too much to take.

    But, of course, they are not his decisions. They are the decisions of his masters who financed him in his journey to the White House and who will now dump him in favour of the Republican nutcase who will cause them less bother.

  • MU
    I’m no so sure that a convention is a great deal different to a party conference prior to a UK general election.
    1 any different to a “progress” motif?
    2 any different to a “change” motif?

    MF
    Thanks for the offer, I’ll see if it’s necessary once I try.
    While it’s true to say that many of those who declare their allegiances are Democrats is it true to say the left have captured the Hollywood myth making machine? Corporates run Hollywood and they follow the money, the creatives while more prominent supply the product, one time it’s myth making , another it’s iconoclasm, yet again it might be gritty realism. For every myth making Hollywood there is a cinematic antidote; if it makes money it gets made. Cannot comment on control of the news other than I’m surprised, but that’s obviously ignorance on my part.

    Stephen 17
    1 Impeachment or the threat of impeachment can be used against any official.
    2 Don’t disagree but slavery was a major factor.
    3 As far as one nation can be constructed out of a melting pot, America is it.
    4 Look at the figures for imports of oil, America imports most from its hinterland and also looks within itself.
    5 In part yes, in part self interest, in part altruism, in part lots of things
    6 Barak personified the American dream only just yesterday, or so it seems.
    7 Trade not love makes the world go round.
    8 Yes America has closed its doors but it would be scundered if all the illegals departed.
    9 In this cast self-interest is synonymous with the world’s interest.
    10 Depends which border, which immigrants but you’re right America has closed its doors.

    I don’t see a dystopia either but I believe in America.

    Wild Turkey
    1Agreed.
    2 Don’t disagree but slavery was a major factor.
    3 Elections are but one aspect of democracy.
    4 The cold war, the collapse of the Soviet empire, China brought in from the cold, N Ireland
    5 Don’t disagree but there was bipartisan support for Marshall Aid.
    6 In aggregate en masse always a dream, what you got instead was year on year rises in living standards.
    7 Not with you here?
    8 Yes, I think it is time for a year zero policy , an amnesty and an audit, and then controlled immigration and integration.
    9 In this cast self-interest is synonymous with the world’s interest, proportionate force, civis romanus (early W Wing) and the rest
    10 Pass too.
    Agree with your last sentiments.

    Ruarai
    For Mick.

    Comrade Stalin
    That’s one definition and usage of exceptionalism, there are others. As for USA having all the answers …..Werner von Braun, our own Harry Ferguson, Thomas Paine

    Thomas Mourne
    Ah I recognise a power elite theorist when I see one. Maybe all the social enterprises should get together and back a contender.

    Sorry if my comments tailed off, it’s a bit like counting widgets. But thank you for your contributions. My new friends at Langley tell me that you are not such a bad lot, the exception being … sorry got to go Bamber’s calling.