Barack, Mike and Ron
My fiancee is now in love with John Edwards, given the text message I've just read. Her big Italian heart is now fixed on his populist campaign, and he's good looking and successful too. This in a month when I'm on the tea.
However, as I keep saying, the interesting and truly appealing candidates to me of this American election cycle are Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul. I think that they offer three of the most honest ways to approach the American Republic. One could view the hope of America as the possibility that it might overcome its roots.
The people on the Mayflower were religious fundamentalists who commenced the destruction of the native Americans. The rebels at Philadelphia invented hatred of the British to cover their distaste for each other. The slaveholders who launched war against Lincoln and the United States were in the mainstream of their country. Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George Bush were utterly representative. Three quarters of the country did belong to someone else, and corporations and nationalistic badness have always been evident and up to something there, often to the detriment of the American neighbours and the world. Slavery did endure.
And then it didn't. America was a place where good things could happen for low motives. I think the abolition of slavery probably had more to do with free wage capitalism than protestant abolitionism, but Lincoln, an agnostic, grasped the opportunity.
Through it all there were others, like Martin Luther King or Thomas Jefferson or Harry Truman, who were given to glimpse something a little better. They uplifted, practically and outrageously, by offering the world a sort of Calvinist idea of democracy by which the failings of Europe and the rest of the West might be measured. They held out the hope to working class people and immigrants locked in small towns in places like Britain that there might be a way of being judged that wasn't irreversible, and a place where one could be free to believe mad stupid things and meet others who did too. There was, over the sea, a place where the Irish and the Jews need not be driven mad or afraid.
It was always a thin sliver, of course. It was very powerful in a Britain owned and operated by the metropolitan bourgeois and their wannabes though. In Britain, Baptist preachers became people like Ernie Bevin, before that spirit was marginalised. In America, people who actually believe Christ had something to do with feeding the poor, educating their children, pushing aside money changers and holding families together, can be people like Mike Huckabee.
I don't care if Mike Huckabee believes in evolution or not. It is no more a test of office than if you know how a carburettor works, unless you want to be a mechanic or a car designer. It is an ideological test for globalising Liberalism. I care that he has a smile on his face, has read the social gospel, doesn't hate the world or want to blow it up and that he has done decent things with his life from being poor. I like that.
I like Barack Obama too. I like him for the reasons I liked Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X at the end of his life, and Martin Luther King. Because he is eloquent and funny and rises above race and because he spent ten years helping the poor rather than making a tonne of money. I like him because the only thing that made him stop smoking cheap cigarettes was fear of his wife and because the mainstream breathless adolescent media can't rise above race and see him as the sort of man Cary Grant, another shape shifter who moved beyond the trap of his roots, would have played. The Presidency is a personal office and his policies are not extraordinary, but they are pragmatic and sensible.
And I like Ron Paul. Because he is honest, and because he says he is a constitutionalist and he is. The alternative to pragmatic collective government of the sort that America has is not some sort of made-up 'compassionate conservatism', or giuliani-style fascism lite, or the left-wing fantasy of directly elected presidents sweeping corporations away. It is a small government that owns the people's money and spends it wisely, rather than using loans from international banks. This is what many of the American revolutionaries wanted to do. Paul's idea of government is one that devolves to the states and doesn't explode people it does not know with expensive bits of supersonic molten metal. Again, I do not care what other crazy ideas he has. I like these in the absence of pragmatic national solutions.
So I like Huckabee, Obama and Paul. They remind me of Bevin, Douglass and Adams. All the right people dislike them. In fact, some seem to think that it matters that they haven't a clue about foreign affairs. There are sixteen thousand people advising the American government about foreign affairs with fancy-schmancy degrees and national security wonka chocolate golden wrappers and where have they ever got America? The only person a President can't fire or hire is themself, and it is by their words and what they do that ye will know them. And their class.
Right, that's me done on this topic for a while. This isn't a purely American Presidential blog, though I have spent years of my life at Oxford and elsewhere reading about this sort of thing and teaching it, for what its worth. I'm off for a sojourn in some other topics. As though that will last....