February 05, 2004 | Peter

Same Old Same Old in US Politics

The early indications that US politics was undergoing some kind of transformation, thanks to George Bush Jr, are diminishing as the selection of the Democrat presidential candidate proceeds. The argument was that Bush so polarised America (even many Republicans hate him) that it has stimulated US politics generally and the Democrats in particular.
The rise of outsider Howard Dean, thanks to fundraising and organisation done largely through the Internet, was seen as a sea change in politics. It sidelined the national Democrat organisation, mainly though its newfound capacity to raise money.
But now Dean looks dead in the water, his money is almost gone, and he has shifted more and more towards a position not much different to the other more mainstream candidates. In essence it appears that his Internet-based campaign could not translate into enough real world votes.
One of the problems for Dean, and presumably for other ‘left’ candidates (if Dean ever was actually ‘left’) was that the hatred of Bush turned into a strong desire to select the candidate who was most likely to beat him. So ‘electability’ has become the crucial, if not the only, issue. As a result, policies have been of minimal importance. In particular, Dean’s early opposition to the war in Iraq – which made him stand out and mobilised Democrat anger – became a decreasingly germane issue.
So, in essence, the most right-wing president in modern times will likely not generate a correspondingly left-wing Democrat, but at most a centrist one who supposedly maximises electoral appeal.
The problem is, even if this works (and Labor in Australia has just rejected this conciliatory approach by selecting the combative Mark Latham as leader) the US and the world face some very serious and intractable problems, mostly caused by underlying developments on a global scale – like climate change, new diseases, WMD proliferation, terrorism, economic volatility, etc. So the US, and the world, needs a president who can show real leadership. Business-as-usual American politics and the fence sitters it tends to promote (on the ‘left at least) is not appropriate to these strange times.
Oh well, maybe one of these Democrats will discover his own mind, and break out of the rut. It’s not like it’s not about time.

Posted by Peter at 1:52 pm | Comments Off on Same Old Same Old in US Politics |
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