What’s at stake is saving the US from the incompetent, reckless fanatics now in control
It is difficult to look into the future when you are going through what America is going through. All I can say about the atmosphere in the United States right now is that it feels as if the country is about to vomit. The nausea is there; the vote is imminent; and the purge necessary. And yet it hasn’t happened yet. Americans are still staring at the porcelain. And those who desperately want a change — as I do — have to wait. But there are some things that this election has already decided. Several national careers have ended; and the presidential race for 2008 — the most open in decades — has been winnowed.
Not so long ago the leading candidate to replace George W Bush for the Republicans was the Virginia senator George Allen. Allen is in a tight race for re-election. He may still win. But even if he does, his presidential hopes are over. In an incident captured on video, he called a dark-skinned supporter of his opponent “macaca”. It means “monkey”. When told he had a Jewish grandmother recently, he complained that people were casting aspersions in his direction. He is no longer a serious candidate.
The same, I fear, may be happening to the Republican senator John McCain. McCain’s selling point for years has been that he is a man of integrity — hence his appearance at the Tory party conference in Bournemouth last month. He wasn’t broken under torture by the Viet Cong; he fought the religious far right; and he voted against much of the insane Republican spending spree at the federal level. Yes, he loyally backed Bush in 2004. But those of us who differed felt that he was just doing what he had to.
But then, this autumn, McCain caved in on the question of allowing the CIA to torture military detainees. He surrendered habeas corpus to Donald Rumsfeld, the incompetent maniac running the Pentagon. He went to Jerry Falwell’s university to make nice with the religious right. He is even now appearing in advertisements to amend the constitution of his home state, Arizona, to strip gay couples of legal rights. In short, he’s become a compromiser on issues that cannot be compromised on — torture, honesty, honour — and his brand of integrity has been badly damaged.
The big winner for the Republicans is also clear: Mitt Romney. Romney is the Republican governor of Massachusetts and has been able to stay largely out of the fray of this dirty, ugly campaign. He has quietly been building a national campaign based on the religious right. He is vociferously against embryonic stem cell research, abortion and acceptance of gay couples as equal citizens. Right now, the Republican race is between him, McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.
For the Democrats, Hillary is still there: sane on the war, smart on the issues, carefully honing a centrist message. She has lots of money — but not much enthusiasm. Some say she may not even run, preferring to become Senate majority leader. And she sees, as we all do, another light on the horizon.
That light is Barack Obama, a 45-year-old first-term senator from Illinois. He is the son of Barack Hussein Obama of Nyangoma-Kogelo, Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas. They met while his father was in Hawaii on a foreign student visa. In the middle of this election season, Obama’s manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, has been No1 for weeks. Its title tells you why. He was just on the cover of Time magazine. And he just pointedly said he has “thought about the possibility” of running for president in 2008.
Earlier this year he gave a superb speech on how faith and politics can intersect while keeping their distance — the central issue in American politics. He’s a centrist and a brilliant speaker who electrified the Democratic convention in 2004. If America is yearning for a cultural and racial healer, Obama looks like one.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006
This is long but worth the read. The "vomit" analogy is right on. From Andrew Sullivan in The Sunday Times (London):