Monday, February 11, 2008

US presidential elections

Please don't read on if you are part of those people who think that just because somebody has a gaming blog he is disqualified from having any political opinions. I'm European, and thus obviously can't vote in the US presidential elections or primaries. But the outcome of them is of huge importance for the rest of the world, so many Europeans follow the current developments with interest.

Now if you take all the political parties of the USA and Europe and place them on a scale from most right-wing to most left-wing, you'll find that most European rightish parties are still very much to the left of the US Democrats, the US leftish party. For example the Democrats are still debating universal healthcare, while the first such system was introduced in Europe (Germany in that case) in 1883. The UK National Health Service was founded in 1948. So given that on average Europeans are more leftish than Americans, it is not surprising that most of them morally support Democratic candidates in US presidential elections.

That usually would be true for me as well, I'm not exactly a fan of George W. Bush, few people are nowadays on either side of the Atlantic. But somehow the Republicans managed to beat expectations this time around. Not only did they surprise everyone by more or less already choosing one viable candidate while the Democrats still have a tight race for the presidential nomination. But they also managed to put up the one candidate I would vote for (if I could) in preference of either of the Democratic candidates. I like John McCain, because he appears to be far more honest than any other candidate. It takes guts to tell Michigan the truth about their economic situation, and it takes somebody to be aware of the truth to improve that situation. McCain's "straight talk" is a big point in his favor in my opinion, and I hope that he'd continue to talk and act straight if he were elected President of the United States.

I could live with a President Hillary Clinton as well, but the dynastic aspects of it worry me a bit. A Bush or a Clinton has been president since 1989, and if Hillary is elected that could continue until 2016. Followed by Jeb Bush for 8 years and then Chelsea Clinton? Double dynasty is a strange political system, and it is statistically unlikely that somebody happens to be both related to a previous president *and* the best possible candidate for the job at the same time.

I'm not at all a fan of Barack Obama. This is where *not* being American comes in as an advantage. Europeans don't have the same sense of guilt towards African Americans. Electing somebody just because he is black seems like a bad idea to me. If he was the best possible candidate, him being black just shouldn't make a difference. But his relative youth and inexperience make him look bad against a John McCain. In a battle of "straight talk" versus "I have a dream", I'd chose the realist every day. It is good to have politicians with dreams, but the oval office isn't exactly the best place to dream. Obama as vice president to Hillary Clinton would be a lot more attractive. An idealist to egg the White House on, but somebody more cool-headed to take the decisions. With a vice presidential experience under his belt he'd make a much better candidate the next time around. I just doubt he sees it that way.

But the whole race is still wide open, and either of the three candidates mentioned could still end up becoming president. While funnily it is Obama who most reminds me of George W. Bush (as in having to rely on advisors to make policy), all of the candidates have the advantage of being "not Bush". It appears as if the USA this time gets a rare chance to vote in an election which isn't just about partisanship, with lots of relatively centrist candidates. May the best person win.

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