Friday, 17 October 2008

Why do people in Britain care about the outcome of the upcoming US Presidential election?

Now, I should clarify. By this I am not questioning why do people care about the eventual outcome of an election that decides arguably (and misguidedly) the man who is the 'leader of the free world' and thus has the power and ability to effect us all. What I am questioning is why some people, particularly colleagues and specific friends of mine, throw themselves into this particular arena with quite so much passion - what is it that they actually hope to achieve?

Having sat through what was a deliberately provocative and not-particularly intellectual hour outlining the 'race so far I was surprised to find myself among about 6 others hanging around to further engage with the topic. It wasn't so much the engaging with the topic and subject matter of the comments that followed that took me by surprise, but the way in which they were delivered. One guy, from London, started to rant about how McCain was no different to Bush really and that the way that he was trying to distance himself from the administration was nothing short of abominable. Another then followed with a breathless retort about how Obama was at least, "and I mean AT LEAST" (he yelled), as guilty as McCain was of denying his ideological roots. While these are both valid points, the arena they were delivered in was fantastically bizarre. Here we were in the middle of a lecture theatre in Bristol (in the UK), in week zero of term, at lunchtime, surrounded by a handful of other non-US citizens hearing why "we" should or shouldn't support Obama/McCain. I appreciate the passion for politics, the interest in international affairs, and the general feeling of disgust about pretty much all aspects of the American electoral system (apart from its ability to stimulate debate, evidently). But what i do not appreciate is the egotistic view that 'my', or 'your', or 'our' support makes a bleeding smidgen of difference to these people!

I genuinely believe that foreign nations have the ability to affect American foreign policy, but in an arena that is pantomimic at its most sophisticated it seems wise to acknowledge that under such circumstances the Americans will only acknowledge we exist when we agree with them and support them, or disagree with them when they feel we shouldn't and they get hurt by it (freedom fries anyone?). So the chances of Obama, McCain, or - god forbid - Baden or Palin giving two hoots about what we think is minimal at absolute best.

Is it even possible for a foreigner to make a difference? I saw the Co-Chair of 'McCain 2008' on a special edition of Newsnight who simply patronised his way through a tremendously easy 20mins of 'questioning' on the basis that he was there to deliver McCain's message and if we don't buy it, who cares?! Either accept that McCain is the 'man of experience', 'the candidate of low taxation', 'the trustworthy American with a clean social past', or don't. What difference does it really make to his "friend". At least he wasn't as bad as the following Democrat spokeswoman who claimed that the recent debate turned a couple of her (most likely imaginary) relatives into Obama supporters. She was clearly able to deliver this at best demi-truth so confidently via one of the most respected broadcasters in the world on the basis that if it emerged that she was lying then again, so what?! Practically all the viewers will not be enfranchised in this particular election. Could we prosecute her? No. Could we even persecute her to the point that she is no longer taken seriously in her role? It seems unlikely. Really, who are we to do anything about this?

As such, please, I implore you all - anyone and everyone who ever meets me in the next eight weeks or so - to stop asking who I support. I don't support anyone. I may have a man who I would prefer to see in the White House but I can't affect his selection so therefore I see little point in declaring my interest. Equally if you happen to guess who my affiliation is with and disapprove then please, do not yell or debate with me. I won't listen, and if i did it wouldn't make any difference anyway. For those few who are in a position to affect such power time would be better spent preparing for the whoever it is that finally claims the ultimate throne of democracy than constantly trying to get involved in an issue in which they have to construct themselves as they otherwise simply won't have one. Lord knows, if we'd seen Bush coming and pre-empted the world that he is readying to leave in his wake then maybe we would have a better world right now.

Follow the election, certainly. Care about it, sure. But if you don't have a vote in this particular charade then do not, whatever you do, become so deluded so as to think that who you 'support' matters. I assure you, it doesn't. And in the meantime, most importantly, please stop bugging me.

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