The End of Darkness?

In just a few hours time, after what's been the longest, most expensive, and perhaps most exciting presidential election ever, we'll know who is going to be the 44th President of the United States.

Being a political news junkie, I've been following the race fairly closely for the last 18 months, and, like pretty much the rest of the world outside of America, I'm praying (figuratively speaking given I'm an atheist) that Barack Obama wins.

The world can't handle another 4 years of a Republican administration in the White House.

A while back I read Bill Clinton's autobiography - 'My Life', and he stated that although history will ultimately judge his presidency, his own view was based on a simple mental list he kept:- jobs created, increased access to healthcare, increased funding for childcare, number of people lifted out of poverty, etc.

Now lets apply that principle to George W. Bush. Here's my mental list:

  • Over 4,500 coalition troop deaths in the Iraq War and hundreds of thousands civilian casualties resulting from a war, lest we forget, which was sold to us based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction which never materialised;
  • The trampling of human rights and civil liberties via the Patriot Act, Extraordinary Rendition, Water Boarding torture, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and other such terms we had all never heard of before 2001;
  • The failure to sign the Kyoto Treaty, and furthermore, the continual effort to block and hamper the fight against climate change;
  • The abysmal failure to act or show any leadership in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans;
  • The complete wipeout of the federal budget surplus and creation of America's biggest ever budget deficit;
  • etc, etc.

Maybe I'm being a bit unfair. On the plus side he did give records amount of financial relief to AIDS riddled countries in Africa, and was the first US president to acknowledge that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestine issue.

However, on the first, the amount of money given to the fight against AIDS ($30bn if I remember correctly) now seems a pittance in comparison to the $1 trillion spent on the Iraq War to date and the $700 bail-out of the banks (a figure which looks like it could double). And on the second, what progress has been made? We seem no closer to a solution now than 8 years ago. At least 8 years ago there was no wall built around the West Bank. Given what many people believe are the root-causes of 9/11, you'd think that pushing the middle-east peace process would be right up there with catching Osama Bin Laden. Yet both seem to have took a back seat to what I believe is Bush's number one priority - 'Energy Security'.

I remember a few years ago visiting the White House website to see what his administration had to say about climate change. If you go there now there is a section titled Environment but a few years ago no such section existed. Yet there was a section titled Energy Security.

Some cynics may say that Energy Security was the entire basis for the invasion of Iraq. After all, we all know that the Bush family's links to the oil companies are long and well documented.

The last 8 years have been a disaster and George W. Bush will probably be remembered as one of the worst and most unpopular American presidents ever.

So, will we see an end to this darkness?

I'm not naive enough to think that America will completely change its foreign policy and stance on climate change overnight if Barack Obama wins.

Lets just hope it is a new direction and an Obama win will go some way to reverse the damage inflicted by 8 years of the Neo-Cons in charge.

As for John McCain, I had a lot of respect for him before this process began. I've read about his 6 years imprisonment and torture during the Vietnam war, and his refusal to be released ahead of his compatriots. He truly is a war hero. But the way he has fought this campaign has surely undone a lot of the goodwill many people had for him.

Some political analysts say that he has simply learnt from his 2000 campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee against George Bush. In that campaign he mainly refused to go negative and resort to nasty tactics. Bush on the other hand had no such qualms and many Americans, bombarded with adverts and push-poll phone calls, fell hook, line and sinker for the Bush campaign's smear tactics.

McCain has clearly taken some political campaigning lessons from Karl Rove and thrown his morals out of the window. At every step he has attempted to dumb the campaign issues down to the lowest common denominator; painting complex issues as black and white, and virtually labeling Obama as everything from a terrorist to a socialist.

The soundbites coming out of the McCain team over the last few weeks since the economic meltdown really has represented a low-point in intellectual debate. How many times did McCain quote Obama as using the words 'share the wealth', insinuating that Obama is somewhere to the left of Karl Marx with his policy of reducing income tax on the middle tax, as opposed to McCain's policy of cutting corporation tax for big business. It amazes me how that word 'socialist' is used in american politics. It's as if no american has ever visited Western Europe and seen the balance between economic growth and state welfare that has given a high standard of living with free(ish) health care for all.

Obviously I'm making grand generalisations here. It's mainly commentators on the right side of politics in America (right as in opposite to left, not right as in opposite to wrong), such as the state news channel that is Fox News that have done the most to brainwash some Americans into believing that all the issues are black and white; free-markets - good, regulation - bad; religion - good, atheism - bad; etc.

I sometimes play a little game. I put on the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News and see how long it is until I want to throw a brick at the TV or start laughing uncontrollably in an effort to hide the tears of frustration at the ridiculousness that is the pompous, egotistical Bill O'Reilly. It's been particular amazing to hear his rants lately against the democratic bias of the MS-NBC news channel. Talk about 'pot this is kettle'.

Anyway, speaking of black and white, some commentators are looking out for the purported Bradley Effect to see if the polls are wrong and McCain can clutch victory from the claws of defeat. The Bradley Effect is a theory that many voters tend to lie in polls when asked if they voted for the black candidate because they don't want the pollster to think that they are racist. I guess we'll find out in a few hours time whether there are truths to this theory.

I've been watching the Emmy award-winning drama John Adams over the last few weeks which is currently showing over here. I wonder what Adams, Washington, Franklin, et all would make of the circus that now exists as a result of Article 2 of the United States Constitution? Whatever happens, these are certainly interesting times we are living through.