Tuned in to CSPAN for the Palin/Biden Big Fight, with reaction shots from Scott Gunn’s live blog. As a sympthetic outsider, it had me wondering...
(1) Parties and individuals must relate very differently in the US. Somehow, over there, you can be a member of a political party without having to accept any responsibility for what it has done. I cannot imagine any UK politician so publicly disassociating themselves from much of their own party’s recent policy and praxis. People would just fall about laughing. Mirroring their US counterparts, UK Labour and Conservatives parties have both banged the drum hard for deregulation in recent years (and, you may feel, are now reaping their just rewards). Pretending otherwise is laughable.
(2) Local and National Government are different worlds, both sides of the Atlantic. Slammin’ the feds is fine and dandy if you’re running for state office, because people want someone to stand up to central government for them. But hang on; the Veep is a fed. What kind of fed does either candidate propose to be? I’m not sure I’m any the wiser this morning. And for Mrs Palin, How does she propose to manage the transition? does she understand what she’s taking on? Of course, it’s long been a staple of US Politics for candidates on all sides to slam federal government until they’re it. “Ain’t no strings on me” local populism has, classically, not precluded going native in Washington. Mrs Palin is obviously a fine local politician. Being naive, folksy and mumsy will be taken by Palin fans as evidence that she’ll be the first candidate since 1776 to reconstruct Washington as a blow-up bouncy version of Juneau, AK. Palin doubters, however, will simply take all this kitchen sink folksy stuff as further evidence she hasn’t a clue what she’s doing. Is Palin Pericles or Pinocchio? It’s for US voters to decide.
(3) Both candidates, it seemed to me, camouflaged elephants in the room for electoral purposes. Iraq looks set to do for the US everything the Boer War did for the British Empire. Everybody backs the troops as brave public servants, but don’t they (and we) deserve to know, actually, what is the way out? And what about tax? Promising to cut tax, albeit with some ambiguity about the level at which this will happen, has been a staple element of Reaganomics since Reagan. But soft, a great Bipartisan Wheeze is about to stick another $700bn+ on the burgeoning US public debt. As Mother Thatcher used to tell us Brits in the eighties, public debt is just deferred taxation. Who, Basil Fawlty might ask, is going to pay off mushrooming public debt in years to come, especially against a global background of rising interest rates, without raising the money by taxation? Dennis Compton?
It was heartening to see two nice people, both of them, engaging in a well chaired civic debate. Some of the unsaid undertones do make the whole thing feel like a Dave prequel. In a country where anybody can become vice-president, is anybody is just about to?