For certain kind of Englishman (of which, obviously, I am one) one of the better spectator sports around is the quadrennial hoopla the United States goes through as it elects a new president or re-elects the old one. I recently wrote about cricket and indicated that it wasn’t the most intuitive sport to get your head around, and much the same is true of the apparently ramschackle process the U.S. has adopted to elect a president. The vote itself is in November and the winner is inaugurated in January. But the race itself starts several years earlier when various would-be contenders to be nominated as their parties candidate begin to test the water to see whether they have a realistic chance of gaining the nomination or whether they are vainly – in this case in two senses – pissing in the wind. As the current president (and I’m sorry, but I refuse to dignify the post with a capital p – the Yanks are too self-important as it is) is a Democrat and is seeking re-election, it is a line-up of Republican hopefuls are who doing all the baby-kissing and God-fearing and hoping to persuade all wings of the party that they are the man – the two women would-be candidates have already dropped out – who can take on the incumbent and win.
Once would-be contenders have convinced themselves – or been convinced by others that by putting themselves forward they won’t necessarily make a complete arse of themselves by coming last; and once they have assured themselves that they a sufficient number of rich fuckers are prepared to part with the necessary moolah to pay for the whole shooting match, it’s on to the next round when all 50 states decide who should be the one man or woman to stand for their party. I think.
What makes the whole process so thoroughly entertaining is that by the time you think you have got the hand of the whole primaries system, something occurs to demonstrate that you are not even off the starting block and haven’t a clue as to what is going on. In some states only registered Republicans can vote for whoever they think will make the best candidate, in others any registered voter – whether
The origins of such a convoluted process – that should be of such convoluted processes – lie in the evolution of the United States, with each state becoming part of the Union at a different time and having, in the meantime, evolved it’s own method. Seen in that light, the complications of the process are understandable if not comprehensible, i.e. blame the mists of time. The U.S. citizen’s right to ‘bear arms’ and keep as much lethal weaponry in his house as his psychopathy will allow is similarly understandable, although to use lily-livered Europeans utterly incomprehensible.
In those far-off days when ‘obesity’ was still a purely medical term, in many of the less populated states those eligible to vote didn’t see their neighbours from one month to the next, so getting together to decided who should pursue their interests in the coming presidential election was something of an occasion. Given that everyone and their four-year-old now drives a car – it goes with the collection of handguns one is obliged to own, apparently – and that hardly anyone lives more than a few hundred yards from their neighbour, it all makes rather less senses, but as a Brit I am on thin ice here, and would be well-advised to exercise discretion when it comes to discussing the full range of Yankee foibles.
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Since the round of primaries started two weeks ago – a fortnight ago in Brit parlance – several would-be contenders, including the women, have thrown in the towel. That means by the time Super Tuesday arrives – on March 6 this year – and primaries are held in a number of states, it should be a lot clearer who the viable candidates are. I think it will boil down to a Mitt Romney and a Newt Gingrich - American names also provide us supercilious Brits with no end of amusement – we prefer our politicians to be called David, Nicholas and Edward, although now that our colonial past is rapidly catching up with us, there are already several Tariqs in the Commons and fine, upstanding chaps they are, too (he said carefully, with one eye on the jungle of equality laws now in place which make discussion in Britain something of a parlour game, ideally played only by lawyers). I think a chap called Rick Santorum – another silly name – is still in the running, but as he would like to see all homosexuals boiled in oil once all their limbs have been torn off, I suggest that his long-term prospects are limited. There is also a certain Ron Paul – decent name, decent chap as far as I can tell, but a Michelle Bachman and a Rick Perry have called it off, as has Sarah Palin, who as far as I am concerned gave loopiness a bad name, was weeded out long ago, apparently to almost universal sighs of relief among the more serious-minded Republicans.
My money is on Mitt Romney. He strikes me as not the flaky sort and comes over as presidential, which is undoubtedly
A great deal less to my tastes is the other main contender, a Newt Gingrich. From what I have heard Newt is something of a hypocritical little shit who was actively pursuing an
Incidentally, I read somewhere that with several of his mistresses, Newt would only engage in oral sex because he felt he could then argue that he hadn’t ‘committed adultery’. My dear friends in America, you don’t want a cunt like Newt running your country (although under Bill Clinton it seems you did).
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An interesting and well-made four-part documentary about Vladimir Putin started on BBC 2 a few days, which has the virtue of being informative. I’m looking forward to the next three parts. More once I’ve seen them.