Monday, 3 November 2008

Cautiously Upbeat

So, tomorrow is The Election. And no, I don't feel any shame in being a Yorkshireman and describing voting in the new American President as being The Election. Look at how big America is. Look at how shiny.

It seems completely implausible at this point that McCain can win. Fears about interference at the ballot box (though in many areas"ballot box" might be less appropriate a term than "evil Republican touch-screen battle droid") and the Bradley Effect notwithstanding, McCain has had his chips (I've been waiting months to make that joke, which is probably more than a little sad).

I admit it, I am excited. The prospect of watching the Republicans ground into the dirt as the evening goes on reminds me of the happy days of my youth watching the Tories get bitch-slapped across the county back in '97. I may even shed a tear for truth, justice and the American way, despite the fact that for a committed Americophile, I don't think I actually like the American way all that much.

The problem, though, is the same as it was in '97. I know full well that election day is liable to be the last time I actually feel happy about any of this. I genuinely like Obama, but at the end of the day he's just a politician, with all that implies. He's also centre-right by any objective standard, which makes it hard to be bouncing with joy that he's liable to take the Oval. I've spent the last few months cheering on the lesser of two evils because the alternative was so totally, hideously, bat-shit monstrous in its evilness it was the only plausible alternative. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa fought to get "Diamond" Joe Quimby re-elected because the alternative was Sideshow Bob? It's a lot like that.

Once the Republican juice is sluiced from the West Wing, though, and all the T-shirts asking "What Would Evil Jesus Do?" have been burned in the Rose Garden, we'll just be left with the fact that the guy in charge isn't really who or what a lot of us would want in an ideal world. Whilst Blair's Labour was obviously incalculably better than the Tories, they still didn't really represent anything particularly good. [1]

Add to this the fact that, as many smarter commentators than I have pointed out, the GOP are always happiest in opposition, since all they're really interested in is preventing government from actually functioning, whilst demonising the left (I've noted before that little is likely to change in America as long as the downtrodden need the Democrats, and the rich don't need anyone). It's going to be a horrible, horrible first term as we watch the Republicans attempt to gridlock Congress and watch President Obama pass legislation that we probably won't be able to describe in more favourable terms than "Not as bad as Bush's, at least".

On the other hand, there is one reason why the Obama White House will keep me smiling. As long as he's in there, there's far less chance of another Iraq. At this point something like one million Iraqis have died since the start of the "cakewalk". That's 3.3% of their entire population. That's half of New York, for God's sake. The "coalition of the willing" turned up, deposed a dictator, and in the process they nuked half of New York. As appalling and tragic as 9/11 certainly was, I'm sure the irony of that fact isn't lost on anyone.

So roll on President Obama, and let's just try to get through this first term without the centre deciding it cannot hold.

[1] Though they did do a number of very good things. Repealing Section 28, for example, which they did the year I became a Newly Qualified Teacher, and was probably the only law I can think of so abhorrent that I would rather have been fired than obey it.

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