I abhor politics. Always have. I have a healthy respect for the institution of government, and sometimes even feel sorry for politicians who have thankless jobs (President Barack Obama springs to mind), but I find the whole process that Americans go through to elect our leaders cringeworthy.
You'd think that moving an ocean away might make the whole thing a bit easier to swallow, but you'd think wrong. I'm here in London, listening to the British newscasters and their never-ending coverage of the Republican primaries and all I can feel is a huge sense of embarrassment. The Brits report matter-of-factly on the race and the vitriol that's exchanged among candidates, but beneath it all you can clearly hear the commentators' disdain.
And why shouldn't they find the whole thing ridiculous? Each week there is a new front-runner, someone no one has ever heard of (shades of Sarah Palin) and who is touted as the next big thing. Except that the next big thing usually has a few skeletons in their closet, including their religion, their tax returns, their dubious marital history. It really makes us Americans look like fools.
And then there's the money. The sheer amount of dosh that it takes to get elected, and the lack of finance reform that is promised year after year combines to give rise to the SuperPAC. What will they think of next to get around the rules?
I've lived in England for 5 years, and I won't profess to understand their admittedly convoluted electoral system or declare it any better than ours. I will say, however, that they get the money question right. Each candidate can only spend just over $11,000 per campaign. Yes you read that right--the same amount that a nano-second of airtime costs in the US--for their whole campaign. The result is a refreshing lack of noise that lets people focus on the candidates' message, not it's sheer ubiquity.
So every Sunday I read Andrew Sullivan's column in The Sunday Times, a mainstream U.K. newspaper. Mr Sullivan is a very prolific conservative British columnist who has lived in the U.S. for years, and it's interesting to read his take on the political race happening in my homeland. His is a pretty balanced view, to my (somewhat) non-partisan mind, but even his smart writing can't hide the fact that Americans--and especially the media--can be complete idiots when it comes to electing their leaders.
Firstly, it's January. The election is in November. How can we hope for anyone to get any governing done when they are campaigning for a year? Secondly, it's all about the gossip. I love how Newt Gingrich tried to take the high ground--and the sound bite on the news of him castigating the questioner for asking such an insensitive question played often here in the U.K.--but can we forget how he led Clinton's impeachment on similarly morally bankrupt grounds?
There is one thing I am incredibly thankful for, lest you think I am entirely negative. That one thing is that Sarah Palin is not a serious contender for any political office at this moment. I still have faith in my fellow countrymen (and women) that reason will prevail and should she ever be in a position to be elected anything, she will not succeed.