We don’t subscribe to the idea all Republicans are baddies and all Democrats goodies, or visa versa. Though many people vote out of tradition and instinctive prejudice. But with an election looming and Obama and Romney neck and neck, though perhaps TV debates will be crucial, let’s pause to acknowledge failings, or the likes of Brad Pitt talking of disappointment with Obama, but then pause to remember too.
Remember the enormous sigh of relief when a Bush era seemed to have been left behind, even if McCain was holding the Republican banner by 2009. Bush being a President so spectacularly ignorant that the world winced and hurled shoes. That on his re-election, in dubious circumstances in Florida, Americans put up pictures on the Internet saying “Sorry World.” But one whose presidency not only saw the Iraq War, arguable on both sides but almost puerile in its “Mission Accomplished” and Liberation bringing blandishments, but also saw the massive growth of the Military Industrial complex, in the shape of Homeland Security and The NSA, indeed a doubling, and the very dubious operations of companies like Halliburton, so beloved of Dick Cheney. So American business, while people died, was ensured benefits that never got to Iraqis, and even Eisenhower warned of the danger when the military take control.
Then there was, in that “shock capitalism”, Chicago school of economics philosophy, massive deregulation, especially of energy markets, that led straight to Enron and the biggest corporate fraud in US history. That saw energy traders in California turning off power stations so they could rig prices. They are some of the arguments in the thriller The Godhead Game about the Mayan ‘End of the World’, or hopefully new dawn.
So if you buy into Romney ‘the big business leader model’, the hope for jobs and prosperity, be very aware of what individuals or society might again get at the end of the line, especially with the European economy so fragile. Obama has a great deal to do, but out of the shared scandal of massive lending, complex banking fixes and the selling on of Toxic debt in the housing market, the US treasury has made moves to protect individuals and to stimulate the economy, in ways the UK has not, and Obama believes in social and human protections, if Capitol Hill might lock him into the difficulty of getting there. Capitalism of itself can be ruthless and takes no prisoners, but perhaps Americans have to get over ideas, bedded so deep in the experience of the Second and Cold War, that “socialism” cannot have different forms and inspirations and is just a dirty word, rather an enormously important intellectual tradition, for all the horrors of Communism.
Obama has all the hallmarks of a true leader and statesman too, not least his intellectual capacity, even if his own skillful rhetoric might sometimes get the better of him. Fighting that American tendency to isolationism though, or to put up fearful and threatening walls, especially out of the terrible wound of 9/11, he spoke to Muslims of respect and dignity, not fear, but also tracked down Bin Laden. He turned to Putin to press the vital case too of Nuclear Non-Proliferation. His election also represented a sea change out of atavistic prejudice in America, so close to home in the relatively recent experience of the Civil Right’s movement. He is a figure the World can talk to and do business with and America’s hope, not Romney.