Ugh, politics. I suppose it’s unavoidable, so might as well get it over with. Obama seems to have captured the European press’ imagination, judging by the tongue baths he received in my free Air France copies of Liberation and Le Monde. That, plus the request of longtime reader Ed P., spurs me to share some thoughts on the American presidential primaries.
First, Edwards. Unlike the multicultural Obama, Edwards’ Southern-populist appeal would seem to be hard for non-Americans to grasp. His direct attacks on moneyed interests sound like FDR and Harry Truman.* He comes the closest of any Democrat to suggesting that American society might have things called social classes, and that members of those different classes might have different interests. This sort of argument is still considered avant-garde in the United States, so Edwards has to be given some credit for guts.
However, this champion of the least, the last, and the lost lives in a 28,200 square foot (793 square meter) gated compound worth $6 million. He made this money with personal-injury lawsuits. Personal-injury lawyers like to portray their jobs as a noble crusade for the little guy, but this crusade also just happens to conveniently make the best ones fabulously weathly at the very same time. I generally try to judge candidates by what they say they’ll do rather than "who they are", but his gated compound is just too SuperSized to ignore. I just can’t take the man seriously. Also, there’s only room for one quirky-but-potentially-electable Democrat, and Obama seems to have sucked up all the oxygen in that room.
As for Obama, he gives good speech, and can do the God talk that Americans crave without seeming fake. He looks suave and professional and inspires confidence. Also, I give him props for not immediately cashing in his law degree in return for Mammon. Instead, he went into a tough part of Chicago and worked for poor people. He’s not the most progressive big-three candidate (Edwards is), however — his policy positions are very hard to distinguish from Hillary’s.
Hillary has the schoolmarmish air of someone who’s spent a lot of time around people who are not as bright as she is. The more anti-intellectual and insecure American voters — and there are a lot of them — dislike such people. Although Hillary’s worked on her charisma lately, there’s still a large reservoir of unfocussed hostility toward her, making her the easiest candidate to beat in 2008. Also, her foreign-policy blustering has me thinking she’ll be tempted to overcompensate to show her toughness, which is the last thing we need right now.
As for the Republicans, they’re a pretty measly bunch. I’m torn between wanting to see Huckabee get the nomination because he’d be such an amusing target and desperately not wanting him to get the nomination because huge numbers of Americans agree with his
ludicrous harebrained exotic religious beliefs and vote on that basis, meaning that he could actually win.
But there’s one thing to keep in mind. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, that person will be hammered with crude attack ads during the entire summer and fall of 2008. If Obama gets the nod, expect Americans to get to know the big scary black man who sold him all that pot and cocaine he’s admitted to using (hashish is actually "shit" in French, so Obama is described in Liberation as an "ado qui a touché au shit et à la coke"). That will be only the beginning. The personal attacks, plus the old-standby national-security fear mongering, will make inroads, as they did in 2004. Whether that will be enough to tip the scales in the Republicans’ favor is anyone’s guess, but Republicans monger fear because it works, and the weaker the candidate, the more need for mongering.
And now for something completely similar. Fellow expats, don’t forget to think about voting in the Democrats Abroad global primary. Here’s the poster for the one in my neck of the woods:
* A little Truman for you: "The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do."