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Only in America! – Some random thoughts on the Democratic Primaries


It is the day after the North Carolina and Indiana Primaries and I have had enough. It is overkill and CNN is revelling in it with its Situation Room and 2008 Campaign and parade of consultants and experts. I don’t know about you but I am totally fed up with what is parading itself as democracy. Maybe there is method in this madness for if Obama emerges as the Democratic nominee and President it probably will send a powerful and positive image about the system and about America itself. If he loses it will still be sending a message, another kind which many of us will define in many different ways.{{more}}

Could you imagine any other country coming up with this kind of electoral system, one that mystifies even the Americans themselves? But this is America, a country that has invented a game it calls football but one in which the hands are more frequently used than the feet; a country with a major game called baseball which from the first time I saw it or knew about it I considered it a glorified form of the Rounders I used to know. And to crown it all it has a ‘World Series’ that only involves America. It follows that America equals the world or better said, is the world. Then it has created utter chaos with the English language. I am usually fighting with my computer when it tries to convince me that I should discard the good old English spellings I have always known and lived with for a corrupted American version.

I am not sure that its democracy is strengthened by its bizarre Primary season. True enough people become involved and this year more so because of the presence of a gentleman with a strange name, Barack Obama, who has galvanized people throughout the nation either to vote for or against him. His critics have been having a busy time questioning his religion, his patriotism, even his name. But it is all America. Over the past six months, at least, some people, more so the presidential hopefuls and some media people have been breathing, thinking, living politics. Every moment is a media intrusion as you can see when Obama decided to take a short break in the sun in the Caribbean.

CNN adores this. They assemble a host of consultants and experts who sometimes reveal more about themselves than about the elections and the candidates. The Media not only reports on what is happening or what they think is happening but they try to influence and to intervene in what is happening. The Jeremiah Wright story was ready made for this, not forgetting that in the first place it helped to shape the story. They unearthed and dissected everything about Wright and kept him so much on the agenda that if some one had come down or is it up, from Mars he/she would have thought that Wright was one of the 2008 Presidential candidates. But it goes deeper for the Wright story was ripe for picking by those who are still heavily motivated by racial prejudice.

I have recently read an article by Bill Moyers entitled “Was it Really What Jeremiah Wright Said, Or, Was it Because He’s Black.” Moyers touched on the issue of double standard that had long been framed in my mind. He wrote, “Behold the double standard. John McCain sought out the endorsement of John Hagee, the warmongering, Catholic -bashing Texas preacher, who said the people of New Orleans got what they deserved for their sins. But no one suggests McCain shares Hagee’s delusions or thinks AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of a foreign head of state and asked God to remove Supreme Court Justices, yet he remains a force in the Republican Religious Right.”

I avoid Fox. I know there is freedom of speech but I can never understand why any black person, Caribbean person or even sane person, perhaps, would want to look at Fox and swallow the putrid nonsense that it puts out as analysis. This is why I resent it when I get into the Departure Lounge at the airport and am forced to sit and listen to it. On Monday, thankfully, the television was on CNN. I hope it stays there. CNN is certainly having fun with the Democratic in-fighting. But when you think you have had enough you are then faced with someone called Lou Dobbs, with his fixation on immigration, and who calls himself an ‘Independent’, as if this is a special badge of honour to be worn.

But even though I am not an American what happens in the USA is my business since the US feels that whatever happens everywhere is its business. I have really been sick of this long drawn out Primary season which even BBC occasionally gets caught up with. But we have to also bear in mind that the real election campaign has not yet begun so there is a lot more to see and hear. Fortunately for John McCain he did not have to go through the long tortuous process that is ripping the Democratic Party apart. As an over 70 year old politician it would certainly have taken its toll. Although I think that, among other things, the Economy, the Iraq War and George Bush would work against McCain, there is always the possibility of him getting into the ‘Oval Office’. But let us remember that Americans used to be making all sorts of disparaging remarks about the ‘old man’ ruling Cuba and also about some of the Russian Presidents. But McCain is American, so no problem!

I have now lost all the respect I used to have for Bill and Hillary Clinton because of their behaviour in the Primary Campaign. You would have thought that Hillary and Barack were in different parties. Hillary would do anything to be the Democratic nominee and to win the Presidency. What is her next move is anyone’s guess, but bet your bottom dollar she will be up to something. Her gasoline tax holiday didn’t do her any good. In fact it exposed her even more. She said she would have moved away from Wright a long time ago if he was her Priest. She claimed through tiredness to have misspoken on dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. She wants to obliterate Iran if it attacks Israel because she has to create that macho- image. Sure enough her remarks on Iran really tell us why she supported the war in Iraq. It was no mistake, no error of judgement. It was about creating an image. Bill is, on the other hand, often in the background poking the fire.

I fear that if Hillary has her way with a few more primaries still to come the Democratic Party might be permanently damaged. I have difficulty seeing her and Obama coming together and being able to convince anyone that they have thrown the bitterness of the campaign behind them and are uniting for the sake of party and country. The next week or two would give us a better sense of what is likely to happen. Perhaps more super-delegates will endorse Obama and wiser heads will prevail and convince Hillary that it is time to leave the scene and give the party time to recuperate and prepare itself for the battle ahead. Will she listen?

Dr Adrian Fraser is a historian and social commentator.