… more American Elections

Pardon my laughter and cynicism: observations on the US presidential primaries from Canada

Published on Online Journal, by John Chuckman, Jan 11, 2008.

I think relatively few observers appreciate the severe limits of America’s 18th century Constitution, the document shaping offices which so many now scramble to fill. Change does not come easily, no matter how eloquent the speeches, how worthy the promises, or how great the need. It would be easier to raise the Titanic intact than to make one authentic change of consequence in America.

The only exception is war, a form of destructive change which occurs with about the same frequency as elections in America. Most members of both parties unfailingly vote for it, support it with additional votes, make no apologies, and utter drivel about fighting for freedom. To do otherwise is regarded as unpatriotic and, in many parts of America, as downright dangerous.


America stopped declaring war after 1941 because it was too inefficient. War was put on an assembly line basis. Now, senators and others briefly huddle before the Pentagon is ordered to bomb the shit out of some unfortunate people. In the process, the president is elevated temporarily to Caesar, never to be seriously questioned before the corpses are all counted. It is an unfortunate matter of style in Bush’s case that Caesar more closely resembles Garfield Goose than Augustus, so treating Bush with imperial reverence always has a certain absurdity about it, but absurdity is never allowed to get in the way of some serious destruction.

Barack Obama is said to be about change, and I think that he is, but the change he represents is in his thoughtfulness, tone of voice, and eloquent selection of words, important enough after seven years of Bush’s visceral stupidity and consistent appeal to the lowest human instincts. Obama is a decent, thoughtful politician, something not seen in the White House for a long time, and there is no more powerful argument for the importance of intelligence and reflection in high office than the grim reality of Bush.

Obama has what Americans like to call “class”, a form of grace that is almost indefinable and very rare in American national politics. There are echoes in his speech of John Kennedy with just a light touch of Dr. King’s cadences. He has the same effortless ability to deliver a line with subtle force. Most importantly, Obama literally breathes a sense of freshness and honesty, something which cannot be taught by the media consultants who infest these campaigns like blowflies in raw wounds.

When Hillary Clinton recently attacked Obama for raising too many hopes with his words – an accusation more revealing of Clinton’s character than Obama’s – his answer flowed so naturally and with such quiet force of truth that his words seemed to provide a defining moment. Clinton brittlely insisted that change came only through steady hard work … (full long text).

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