As a European living in a foreign land, the differences between cultures provide an interesting study. How people respond to politicians can vary remarkably. Italy, for example, has put up with Silvio Berlusconi’s antics for a long time, in a manner that probably wouldn’t be tolerated in, say, Britain.
The British still like to regard their politicians as their representatives in parliament. They’re rather slow to comprehend this isn’t true today, if it ever was. Britain’s politicians are generally only slightly different from those of other nations. Only the most ambitious make it, and ambition is an essential stepping-stone to the attainment of power. Power, of necessity, must beget more power, and so any sincere desire to represent one’s constituents will inevitably get lost along the way.
When it comes to regarding their political masters, Americans must surely be the most bizarre. The two constituent parts of American government, the Senate and the House, are viewed as Roman amphitheaters, the parties inside forever locked in gladiatorial combat.
Every evening, the contests are poured over and dissected by the cable media. Each tries to rewrite the scripts in a desperate attempt to show their side won the day. It’s all reminiscent of some major, never-ending, sports event, or perhaps the caucus race from ‘Alice in Wonderland’:
There was no “One, two, three, and away!” but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out “The race is over!” and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, “But who has won?”
When preparing to choose a political leader, Americans appear to pay far more attention to his, or her, ability to diss the opposition, than any political views the candidate may hold. This is probably because the ideals of both parties are so firmly entrenched as to be immutable. A candidate has no need to state his viewpoint, the party does it for him.
Consequently, some other form of discourse needs to connect the politician to the people, and this is generally achieved by slinging dirt at one’s opponents. In America, it’s a very effective strategy and has evolved to more than just a political gimmick. Putting others down has become an intrinsic part of all aspects of American life, from the bumper stickers:
My daughter is an honors student”
“My dog has more brains than your honors student daughter”
to the sad, listless, comedy that passes for entertainment on many US TV channels.
But nowhere is it more effective than in the political arena.
When a wannabee president has no qualifications for the job and is barely tolerated by most of the populace, he has to think of a way to improve his ratings.
In the case of the rather suspect, Donald Trump…
…he took an old chestnut and tried to roast it a second time.
Using a tired old question-mark over the incumbent president’s place of birth, Trump toured the media chat shows in an attempt to re-sow the seed of an idea that Barack Obama was not really president because he wasn’t born in the US.
As a concept, it was done to death two years ago by other Republican wannabees. President Obama’s ‘Certification of Live Birth’ from Hawaii was scrutinized, analyzed, and found to be wholly legitimate. He was born in America. He was a legitimate president.
Given the facts, you might be forgiven for assuming Trump would be laughed off the stage. Surely, Americans wouldn’t fall for that nonsense a second time? Had Barack Obama been a white man that would almost certainly be the case. In fact, it’s doubtful any dispute over his birthplace would have occurred at all. But he’s not a white man, he’s black, and in America a black man can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Hence, raising a doubt about his integrity for a second time produced, not cries of derision, but a public upwelling of support for the instigator, Donald Trump.
Trump’s popularity among right-wing voters soared. Suddenly, he went from a non-starter in the presidential candidate race, to lying a close third.
Barack Obama is rightly upset by this obsession with his birthplace. Today, he has published an image of his ‘long form’ birth certificate…
…presumably in the hope this ‘issue’ will now finally lay down and die a death.
Trump had broadcast to the nation time and again his doubts of President Obama’s legitimacy, and how his ‘people’ in Hawaii were discovering ‘stuff that would amaze you’, so you might be forgiven for thinking Trump would want to lie low for a while and hide his embarrassment. After all, when British prime minister Gordon Brown accidentally left his microphone on and broadcast to the nation, in colorful language, his views on a lady who’d recently harangued him, he didn’t immediately leap out and proclaim how proud he was to have spoken his mind to the country. He did the right thing – he went home and cried.
That’s definitely not the way America’s wannabee politicians behave, though. Trump leaped out of his helicopter this morning and declared to ABC reporters:
“Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that no one else has accomplished. I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue.”
In Britain, or anywhere else in Europe, he’d never get away with it. His fate would be to quickly retire somewhere in the countryside, far from political influence, and spend the rest of his days raising chickens.
But this is America, and in this land of the bizarre and weirdly eccentric, Donald Trump just might pull it off.
The one aspect totally missing from the controversy over President Obama’s birthplace is why it matters. No-one ever asks that question. Presumably, if it were discovered that Obama was born in Kenya, or Cleethorpes, or Katmandu, he would be drummed out of the White House. Even, if he had proved himself the best president in America’s history.
Because it’s written in the sacred ‘Constitution’, that all US presidents must be born in the country, it’s impossible to have one that isn’t. If he held the secrets to eternal life and prosperity for all, but could only disclose them after inauguration, it wouldn’t make one iota of difference – sorry, no can do.
In the United States, even God is only legitimate if He’s an American.
Filed under: Weird politics