Saturday, August 30, 2008

Making sense of the US presidential race

With the Democratic convention over, the Republican convention about to start, the race to be the next president is stepping up to gear as we enter the final two months before America votes on 4th November. Last week saw a successful Democratic convention, where the Democratic party came together and ended in Barack Obama making a powerful speech to 85,000 in Denver where he set out his vision, and demonstrated why he should be elected as the next president. It was also an historic moment - the first African-American to be nominated a presidential candidate by a major party.

On Friday, the attention was focused on John McCain who surprised everyone by naming a complete unknown in Sarah Palin as his running mate. Most people hadn't heard of her prior to the announcement, and most political commentators did not really tip her either. The ability to surprise is one of the traits of John McCain and it was proven in his choice by selecting the Governor of Alaska who had only been in the job less trhen two years. By choosing her it was clearly an attempt to woo the female vote, many of whom felt aggrieved about Hillary Clinton losing to Obama. My reading of the situation is that it will backfire, first of all Sarah Palin has a strongly conservative background, pro-life, anti gay-marriage/partnerships, pro-gun etc, this will not appeal to many of the Hillary supporters who hold views that would be anathema to Sarah Palin. Secondly, her experience is very limited, yes Barack's is limited as well, but not to this extent; she is governor of one of the smallest US states and prior to that she was a mayor of a town of 7,000 people(less then the size of my council ward in Merton), this counts in an election where international issues will come up regularly and she is no match for Joe Biden. Thirdly, various ethics issues exist in Alaska and currently she is being subjected to an investigation over the dismissal of a state employee connected to her brother in law, the investigation is scheduled to end on October 30th just before the US election day. Now I might be wrong, but John McCain has no right to talk about experience when he chooses someone of such limited experience.

This election has all to play for, Barack has received a boost from the convention and no doubt McCain will as well, that's unless Hurricane Gustav throws a spanner in the works by overshadowing the whole convention, and all the reports suggest it's a major one that has the potential to wreak havoc over New Orleans again and a wide part of the US. Given the record of the Republicans over the last eight years, it's inconceivable to me that John McCain can win given the disastorous economic policies of the Republicans, their environmental record and the international catastrophes that have happened over the last eight years. The Republicans may see Sarah Palin as change, but her record suggest she spins the same old Republican line that has failed to deliver over the past eight years. Barack Obama is real change, and its certainly what the US needs given the record of George W Bush in office.