Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Can the American presidential election change anything? You betcha?

Can the American presidential election change anything? You betcha?
by Tony Phillips

While Australia’s Tuesday will be preoccupied with gambling of the horse racing kind (or saluting a money laundering industry if you want to be more frank about it), America’s Tuesday, our Wednesday, will be about a different, two horse, race. McCain versus Obama. So what are some distinctive points about this race.

Well, the first is that the vice presidential nominees matter a great deal more than they historically have. The recent importance of Cheney to Bush should not overshadow this. While Cheney assumed many presidential functions, and embarked on deceit, torture and the subversion of the American liberties and human rights generally, he didn’t actually become President. Both the current candidates for President, McCain and Obama, have a real question mark over their longevity, McCain simply because of his age: it seems reasonable to assume that death or advancing mental incapacity may intrude on his four year term. Then again, Reagan managed to limp through to the end, despite an obviously failing mind. In Obama’s case it is the more sombre reality of the habit of American assassination, and in particular the history of a gun-crazed nation that has routinely killed uppity blacks, that is cause for concern. Joe Biden’s fate might thus be Lyndon Johnson’s. As for Palin, well, the thought is blanching (sic). Presumably another Cheney like figure, even Cheney himself, would emerge to do the real running of the White House. Palin really could be a complete re-run of Bush.

Another point concerns international affairs and foreign policy. Obama is well ahead on world opinion polls and in Western countries no doubt this has something to do with his environmental credentials. More broadly he is viewed as likely to retreat from Bush’s wild hubris and neo-colonial adventures, not to mention policies of war, torture and terror. Yet this view rests on a largely wishful interpretation. While Obama is doubtless running a more conservative line than he is likely to pursue in office, his ability or willingness to shift American foreign policy is not going to be as great as many assume.

Like Kevin Rudd, he has opted for the politically astute but policy stupid Iraq bad, Afghanistan good, discourse. In reality, both are nightmarish and almost futile wars, though Iraq actually has slightly more chance of success. In general, neither is likely to end soon in something that could be called victory and both will continue to eat money, or rather shovel profits to the expanded military-industrial-complex. There will also be many more dead innocents and some dead American and even Australian soldiers. Moreover, at this stage Obama still embraces a policy that treats the “war on terror” as real. Even more worryingly, he seems to accept the new post Powell American policy of (un)targeted murders and other interventions anywhere in the world it sees fit. A worldview that sees it as acceptable that anyone, anywhere, can become a victim of American state sanctioned violence if the American presidential executive deems it will help their never to be finished “war on terror”.

McCain, surrounded by neo-conservative advisers like Robert Kagan and John Bolton, who were players in the whole Bush disaster, and accompanied by Palin, who is taking advice from the notorious and blood-covered Henry Kissinger, looks like Obama but worse. Obama likes to paint McCain as a continuance of Bush though it seems doubtful he could be as incompetent. Indeed, in foreign policy McCain might actually be robust enough to blindside the neo-conservatives and, as did Eisenhower, try and take some steps against the unholy alliance of neo-con ideologues and the military-industrial-complex. He might even, in an extreme maverick moment, move American policy away from torture and extra-judicial murders. Faced with a need to leverage a hostile Congress this might even make political sense. Remember McCain did, for a brief moment, stand up to the Bush administration over the matter of torture. As for Obama, while we might like to think he would roll back the expansion of Presidential power and arrogance built up by Bush it’s not at all clear he would. All that power will be mighty tempting. Congress’s actions and attitudes will be crucial here.

On the environment there is at least as clear a difference as there was between Rudd’s ALP and Howard’s Liberals in the last election. However, as we have since seen this it not much more than the difference between a dried out lawn covered in cracks and a dull straw matting with tinges of green. Better but not by mu(l)ch. If America does actually begin treating climate change seriously this would be an enormous step forward, and there is no doubt Obama is a better bet to do this than McCain. The latter remains firmly wedded to the old economy and his policies relating to the problem have included a desire to reduce petrol tax and the motto “drill baby drill”. Thus his solution for oil, in terms of its cost and sourcing, is simply to find more of it. Its environmental cost barely appears to register.

In terms of the economy, the big killer for McCain as Wall Street went bust, any examination of the policies of both candidates finds them extremely thin by Australian standards. Then again, the separate powers of the Congress and Presidency do muddy the waters more than they do in a parliamentary democracy like Australia. In the United States it is so often, “the President proposes and Congress disposes”. Even with a Democrat-controlled Congress Obama would not have smooth sailing. All this means much less policy detail is trotted out at election time. Budgets are far more about negotiations with vested interests in the United States. However, it is not unreasonable to surmise the level of debt, foreign and domestic, private and public, will hang like a thundercloud over all US budgets for the next four years. But if anything is to be done to curb the excesses of inequality in America (levels unprecedented since 1929), history says the Democrats are a better bet. However Obama, like Clinton, may find his administration is mostly devoted to cleaning up Republican fiscal irresponsibility.

Obama has put health care back on the agenda. Domestically this is America’s biggest policy failure, its health system is largely an inefficient, ineffective and inequality creating rort. The USA spends almost twice as much as a percentage of its GDP on health care than most other developed countries. Yet the United States leaves about 45 million of its people with no health cover whatsoever and the rest pay relatively high prices to receive services mostly below those they would receive for similar outlays in Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany etc. But this big private and corporatised sector is extremely jealous of its profits and has been highly successful in resisting reform. Consequently Obama’s reform plans are mild and distinctly not socialistic, opting for a continuation, even expansion, of privatised schemes and Public-Private Partnerships. These are everywhere mechanisms for the channelling of taxpayer monies into private purses. Thus such policy by Obama is to feed the hand that will continue to bite, nay gnaw, on him and ordinary Americans for as long as they suffer it. McCain has no answers on health except his general answer to everything, tax cuts.

Overall either leader would offer a more competent administration than the current one but then, with the bar set so low, how could they not? Barack Obama claims its time for a change, and John McCain wants to stand up for America. In the case of Obama the question is the degree to which he would lead real change, as opposed to his being elected just standing for it, indeed his mere election standing in place of it. In the case of McCain the question is, which America is he standing up for? If “Joe the plumber” is any guide it’s that very small percentage earning over US$250,000 a year.

[ category: ]

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


I read that Obama got 46% of the white vote, Fiona Reynolds.....hmmm where?  The Guardian?  Can't remember.

Best I can do is this from Associated Press:

"whites nationally preferred McCain by 12% points". 

And that makes the result look a little different to me.

On the other hand, I notice many Republican sites refer to Obama by his full name:  Barack Hussein Obama.

I take this as a sign of respect, of course.

Here's a tear jerker for you

I'm sure this little set of pictures will be everywhere soon but they shouldn't be missed. Sort of sums up the whole thing.

And Bill Ayers


That was brilliant - here is a word from the national treasure turned "terrorist" by the idiot Palin.


Awww, you old softy, Michael ...


Was the biggest change actually getting the young and blacks to vote?

While world opinion seems to support Obama, most white Americans did not vote for him....a quite astonishing statistic to many outsiders,

Irrespective of Obamas ability to change anything, or solve or resolve anything, the greatest difference he will have made is to these supporters.

They can change things.  Now they know it.  Now everything will, in time, change.

Fiona: What do you mean by "most", F Kendall? 50% plus 1 person? Of those who voted, or of the total "white" population?

Isn't it obvious?

As a proud Australian, I would like to believe that our nation can stand consistent with its own ability to be a member of the United Nations.

It is an indisputable fact that the military and financial power of the US has previously economically profited by the destabilising of various nations of the world.

As President Eisenhower and Admiral Yamamoto may have warned collectively, in my words, "Put the Military/Corporate sleeping giant back to sleep".

I believe that Paul Morrella or Eliot Ramsey could tell us the history of the US "invasion for assistance" of the most indefensible nations who made the error of thinking that their loyalty to the US was sacrosant.

We have been raised, almost as bad as the Americans with their flag, to believe that our very existence is dependant on the attitude of the United States of America - and their flag.

How many foreign of civilian graves should that flag be the marker?

What would be the result if I asked of Paul and Eliot, if this new American administration became only an equal part of the world fraternity and what would be the cost to the rest of the world?


turnout high, south moving?

It looks like a high turnout so far, if that holds it's very good for the Democrats. In Virginia the black voter turnout is said to be very high. If the south starts to shift, and there are, at this extremely early stage, problem signs for the Republican house leader in Kentucky, then this is a major shift in the geography of American politics. Amongst other things it could marginalise the religious fundamentalists even as the wars and Wall St are marginalising the neo-cons.

A South that the Republicans can no longer count on, as they have been able to for 40 years, completely changes their room for manoeuvre, forcing a reconfiguration of the voter groups they target. Bush will have helped undo a major plank of Repubican dominance. How ironic that such a right wing dupe should have made his greatest contribution in the areas of encouraging the growth of terrorism and in moving his country to the left. Or is it not surprising at all?

Vote early, vote Obama

Which is being reported as favouring Obama.

And this, which includes a link to stats.

Dixville Notch has spoken: It's Obama in a landslide

15 Obama 6 McCain

Previous results:

2004: Bush 19 Kerry 6

2000: Bush 21 Gore 5

So maybe he can do a Reagan style 49 state win? 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago