Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Sometimes American politics can seem very strange. Consider these snippets from National Review's Andy McCarthy regarding Barack Obama's healthcare plan in the context of the goon squads showing up at public meetings --

This is not a nice, ivory tower, Oxford debate. This is gut-check time about whether we are going to maintain the bedrock American relationship between the citizen and the state. We are in the battle against ruthless, radical ideologues who have the media and the daunting numbers on their side ... We're not talking trivia here. We're talking about what kind of country we're going to be from here on out. That's something worth getting whipped up about ... It's unfortunate that some people will go overboard — as happens in any human endeavor — but that's no reason to treat this as if it were an academic exercise. If that's the approach, the game — like the country as we know it — is lost.

At first sight this is the kind of language one would use about a revolutionary government, not policymakers that handily won an election just 10 months ago. But then again, it wouldn't be hard to go back a year or two and find a quote from, say, Paul Krugman, that would sound a similar tone about the ideological intensity of the Bush administration.

It's not easy to think of European examples where people get as worked out about the "true" agendas of their elected governments. The parties run on fairly predictable platforms and they either get some laws passed through their parliaments or they don't. The notion that a party runs with a cloaked radical agenda which somehow the voters didn't see at election time? The Americans seem to specialize in that one. Which does make their faith in elections as an instrument of democratisation even harder to understand but there you go.

Anyway, we have no conclusion. Huge time and money spent on elections but then a noticable group of people acting is if the election didn't produce any outcome they could identify with. If that's the dynamic, things could be noisy for quite a while.

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