Tag Archives: hope

What Brexit says about the choice the United States has…

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As a Brit with an interest in US politics that’s lasted pretty much my entire adult life, all I can say is that if Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that those promoting the politics of fear and division don’t care about you or I. Their ideological, selfish campaigning has nothing underneath it. The vote to Leave was a shock, but not unexpected. The Remain campaign simply thought they could scare voters into staying, while Leavers simply peddled negative, xenophobic, racist and outright made-up figures that played to that populist, “we don’t need anyone else to be Great Britain” rhetoric. It resonated with people that thought politics had failed them and saw solutions through demonizing others rather than the very people telling them to Leave. The very same people from the heart of the establishment who were claiming to be anything but. Sound familiar?

There are many things about Hilary Clinton that I have issue with, and while Bernie made inspiring and principled speeches and energised youth and disaffected voters, surely we all knew the reality was that the majority of his plans would have never been reality (Obama’s two terms fighting the House and his own party tells us that an overwhelmingly decent and principled man still struggles to push through even the most sensible policies). And we only have to look at the Labour party to see how a candidate that’s come to power on a wave of populism and left wing ideals has proven a less than competent and effective leader.

But Bernie has forced Hilary into adopting more of his language and policies. This can only be a good thing. Is she as inspiring? As emotive? As warm and engaging? No, she isn’t. And she’s up against a candidate that, however abhorrent, knows how to speak in a way that (unfortunately) connects with many people, playing to their fear and anger. She has to be positive, she has to be able to reach out to voters that want to be heard, that are being attacked by her opponent. That’s a potentially huge demographic. The more he alienates, the more voters are up for grabs for the democrats. Simply refuting his “policies” won’t work, because he makes them up as he goes along, which makes them hard to lay a punch on. And yet Hilary seems to be held up to a level of scrutiny that no man and certainly not a “personality” like Trump ever is.

But however depressing it is to see another dynasty crowned (between Bush and Clinton, that’s most of my life covered, more than half if Hilary gets in) and feel as if there’s such a narrow choice for leader, the alternative surely must galvanize democrats? So many here voted Conservative in 2015 thinking it was a safe bet for a coalition only for a majority to get in and set about further ruining the country, culminating in our decision to leave the EU. Many voted there as a protest, or because they bought lies on immigration, the economy, public services, and it’s going to affect the rest of our lives in the UK.

Trump would be the same. It would be an atom bomb in the US political landscape. Like Leavers, I’m not even sure he wants or expects to win. It’s just about his own ego and popularity. He’s willing to divide the country to feed his own myth and coffers. It’s a crazy situation, but Hilary hasn’t even made her convention speech and yet democrats are fighting each other: it’s just what he wants. I can’t see any reason not to vote against Trump, and to prevent him from being in office, Hilary is the only choice, surely? Anything else is just giving a vote to the devil….

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What’s goin’ on?

Marvin Gaye

Since Tuesday afternoon the world feels a fresher place, and while Barack Obama’s near-deification over the last eighteen months has at times taken on unrealistic proportions, his first days in office have been cause for great optimism: the closure of Guantanamo Bay (or its start), the dismantling of US intelligence’s ‘Black Sites’, the repealing of the 25-year gag order on US funding for organisations that are linked to abortions, and the freezing (and ultimate reversing) of many of Bush’s late-breaking laws.

And one song seems to be echoing round my head today – Marvin Gaye’s sublime What’s Goin’ On? The lyrics are as resonant today as they were when the song was released, but they now sit against the backdrop of a hope for a brighter future, and that is something that means I can wake up with a smile on my face each morning, however cold it is.

Yes we can!

Victory for Obama

It’s happened, and it’s happened emphatically. Victory for Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the Democrats has been not just a landslide, but an avalanche. He needed 270 Electoral College votes, and he’s currently sitting at 349, with some results still left to come in. He took an unprecedented victory in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and Florida. It’s a huge overturning of the Republican majority that has decimated the United States in the last eight years. It’s been a victory for clean, forthright policies over a party willing to smear and be negative. It’s more than simply a victory though. America has elected its first African-American president, something I didn’t think I’d see in the first 50 years of my life.

So, what does it mean? Of course, the sometimes almost messianic feeling that followed the Illinois Senator around is overblown. It can’t be assumed that he will heal his country in four years. He’s inherited a seemingly endless conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a crippling economic crisis which will seriously stymie his ability to push through reforms in healthcare, education, and spend as he’d have wanted when he started the race twelve months ago. But we cannot underestimate the energising of the United States electorate that’s swept him to victory.

On the ground, he had huge financial resources, but also an unwavering support at grass roots level, whose unstinting work ensured a record turnout, and an unprecedented number of votes from young, black, immigrant, working class people that wanted change. And his unwavering belief that change could occur, that the USA could leave its hawkish, warmongering, isolationist agenda behind and reach out to the world in a new era for politics. This marks the end of the old conservative era, that began with Reagan’s terms in the 1980s and culminated in the Neocon-riddled administration of the ‘W’ era. There is fresh and real hope that this is a time for change and one that can be carried through.

Make no mistake, this will be a hugely tough term. And with the Senate looking like it’ll fall just short of the 60 super-majority that would’ve made his ability to change even more strong, Obama’s Democrats will find the road hard fought and trying, but the belief and willingness to change. And like other reformers before him, he’ll need to stamp his authority on the country in his first 100 days, looking to pass some of his most important bills when the momentum is still with him.

What will happen with Iraq? Will 16 months really be realistic to withdraw? I feel that some of his policies will need to be diluted, both to get them voted through, and also in light of the economic downturn that will blight his four years (and hopefully longer) in the Oval Office. And how will he turn round the economy? Will he be able to force more regulation on a Wall Street that has supported him in his presidential reign? If he can count on one thing though, it should be that he’ll have support from the public like no president has seen since the JFK years.

And what of the elephant in the room… will there be an attempt on his life? There are many in the USA that have expressed enough ire to suggest that it may happen. If we are to believe stories in recent weeks, some have already tried. We can only pray that he sees out his term, and will seek and succeed in a second in 2012.

But there is no escaping the resonance of Nov 4th 2008. The day that the USA voted its first black President into office, and the day that, for once, optimism, hope and change became something tangible and realistic in a decision that should change not just the States, but ripple to the rest of the world. We can be hope.

Yes we can.