I’m in New York at the moment with the lovely K, and I’ve been catching the run-up to the mid-terms today. A couple of points of interest:
1. Watching the various attack ads, it really is amazing the lengths to which candidates go not just to attack their opponents’s political positions, but to actually paint them as morally bad people.
2. The Obama healthcare reforms are being used against the president in a way that would baffle Europeans. Even Democrats are distancing themselves from “the government takeover of healthcare”. One of the great ironies of the American/European divide is that Europeans, who have known government tyranny, are far less suspicious of the government than Americans who haven’t. I’ve even seen an ad where a D-Day veteran says that he landed in Normandy to stop things like Obamacare! What is fascinating is the way the Democrats seem unwilling to defend the fact that the reforms will help low income families. It’s as if they don’t want to be identified with helping the poor at all.
3. The coverage of the campaign is obsessed with the Tea Party. In fairness to the media, they are challenging the Tea Party people on where they stand, and the answers are all over the place. One Tea Party leader I saw interviewed could not name a single government program she would cut, but railed against big government.
4. The demonising of the president is just plain weird to this European. I still think he’s a damn good man, and I suspect many Europeans would happily vote for him to run their countries, even though he’d be a tad conservative for our tastes. What is jarring, especially when you look in the bookstores, are the reams and reams of books slating him as a traitor, a communist, a Islamist agent, etc. It’s this politics of total destruction which is shockingly distasteful. Both Jimmy Carter and Jon Stewart have savaged the cable news channels for their obsession with hyping up nonsense.
5. Given the amount of races being split by third candidates (Alaska, Florida, Rhode Island) Americans have got to start looking at electoral reform. Both the GOP and the Dems are in the thrall of their extreme wings, and this country badly needs a moderate centre party.
6. Finally, letting television channels take politically biased positions is not good for public discourse, and I’m not just talking about Fox News. I watched a liberal news presenter actually cut off a conservative guest on his show because she was putting her initally conservative answer in what seemed to me to be a reasonable context. Creating a situation where people only get their news from channels that confirm their prejudices is lethal to democracy and a well-informed electorate.