Worth taking a few minutes to look at the political situation across the Atlantic. Firstly let me explain a little behind the title of this post. For those unfamiliar with either the Bret Easton Ellis novel or the Mary Harron film American Psycho, the book is basically a very dark and at times quite violent satire on Reaganite America. The title of the leading contributors to this blog are both names based on characters from the film, but perhaps the relevance here is that the work's anti-hero, Patrick Bateman is obsessed with and a great admirer of the then property magnate, Donald Trump, perhaps better known now as the man who fronts the US version of the Apprentice.
What relevance has this to the political situation over there? Well, I was quite impressed with an article in today's Guardian which compared the Republican candidates' field for 2012 to the famous scene from Star Wars Episode IV in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
It says much for the paucity of options that currently Trump leads the field. So who are the men and women lining up for a shot at a President who prior to the recent killing of Bin Laden was not exactly lighting up the polls?
Donald Trump, the current front runner arguably needs no introduction: A property magnate, TV personality and billionaire 'self-made' man, he is perhaps the embodiment of 'the American Dream' or its nightmarish Reaganite manifestation anyhow. His sole 'qualification' for the presidency appears to be that he could run the country like a business but he has for me completely blotted his copybook(aside from some rather dubious activity during the 1980's) by what can only be considered an idiotic obsession with Obama's origins, taking pride in his 'forcing' the President to reveal his birth certificate. Say what you will about the Royal wedding, at least it would spare us President Trump as 'head of state'. His catchphrase (adopted by his UK apprentice counterpart Lord Sugar) is 'you're fired'. I think it safe to say in the unlikely event he did get the nomination, he'd be the one being fired.
Perhaps the candidate with even more global recognition than 'The Donald' is former VP candidate from 2008, Sarah Palin. Despite always being on the lookout for mentions of arguably the most influential Hard Leftist country, her lauding of the US' 'North Korean Allies' escaped my attention at the time, but whilst she undoubtedly has significant support from the 'Tea Party' side of the Republican Party this and a host of other gaffes (indeed some would argue her autobio 'Going Rogue' handily brought me as a Christmas present is one long gaffe) make her manna from heaven for any Democratic supporters.
Less familar but arguably even more of a wild card is the other female candidate, Minnesota congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. The kind of kook that gives conservatism a bad name, Bachmann's more sensible ideas include responding to Obama's floating the idea of a cap and trade policy to try and limit CO2 emmissions by telling Minnesotans to 'get armed and dangerous on this issue of an energy tax because we need to fight back'. Having never visited Minnesota but always had a soft spot for their American football team due to the kit(and them being one of my brother's favourite team's divisional rivals!) , I'm sure hoping she is somewhat unrepresentative of the state. Further political positions include support for Intelligent design and questioning the theory of evolution within state schools, opposing increases in the minimum wage and repeal of President Obama's healthcare Bill.
Another figure probably unfamiliar to UK readers is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who feels motivated to run in 2012 because 'we need a new President of the United States' Well, whilst I'd probably agree with you on that Rick, the question is whether you are the man for the job - on that let's examine some of his beliefs. Arguably his most famous (or notorious) foray into the Public arena was when he stated:
"In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
Thus any homosexual readers may be please to know they're bracketed by this candidate with practitioners of bestiality and necrophilia. However, his lack of public recognition means I probably wouldn't cancel any vacation plans to the States post 2013 just yet.
Rounding out the more eccentric candidates is Ron Paul , the Texas Congressman who also put himself forward in 2008. However, Paul is arguably the best of the five mentioned to this point. (not that the competition is especially stiff admittedly)He adopts a strongly Libertarian policy, and indeed was a Libertarian Party candidate from the presidency against Bush Senior in 1988. A philosophical Conservative, Paul opposed the Iraq war in 2002, and adheres to a non-interventionist US policy which would involve withdrawal from bases in Japan,Germany and Korea. A Free Marketeer in the economic sense and a disciple of the Austro German school of Hayek/Von Mises, he would abolish Income Tax and introduce a National Sales Tax. He is 'Pro-Life' although he does state that decisions should be left to the individual States rather than at a National level. All in all, something of a mixed bag with a few genuinely hardline conservative positions mixed in with an economically Liberal philopsophy. He has a hardcore of committed supporters and is almost as likely to criticise his Republican colleagues as the Democrats.
The more 'mainstream' candidates are arguably an equally uninspiring pool, not as with Palin or Bachmann for their lunacy, more for their somewhat lack of charisma. Arguably the best known is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and another failed contender from 2008. Excluding Trump he currently leads the race. However, whilst it would probably make very little difference in the UK, his Mormon faith makes it highly problematic for him to actually get the nomination and to be honest, his campaign in 2008 was so unmemorable precisly because of his lack of public recognition. On most issue he seems to be to the left of the Republican Party but when you look at statements from the likes of Bachmann and Palin, that's not really saying much.
Another figure who may be familiar to more seasoned observers of the US political scene, is Newt Gingrich. Formerly Speaker of the House of Representatives during the latter part of the Clinton presidency,Gingrich announced his intention to run for president yesterdayand looking at the exploratory committee's first steps I must admit I would hope that someone in the UK Conservative Party could carry out his strategy of 'replacing the Left'. However, I don't necessarily think his candidacy could succeed if he were in the race against Obama. Nevertheless, his positions on certain areas are somewhat more nuanced than some of the other more 'out there' candidates. On immigration, especially his proposals to instigate some form of guest worker programme place him to the left of the Republican. that said, on an issue like 'climate change' he remains somewhat sceptical on proposals to use fiscal means of limiting pollution. However, along with Romney he remains one of the early front runners for the nomination.
Another person whom people may recall from the 2008 Primaries is Mike Huckabee, one of Clinton's successors as governor of Arkansas. One of my groomsmen quite seriously said that if Huckabee succeeded in winning the presidency, he and his American wife and daughters would almost certainly be headed back across this side of the Atlantic. The man himself does appear regularly on the US Murdoch mouthpiece Fox News, and he does seem somewhat reluctant to give up that quite lucrative number.
However, worryingly for those on the Left(and many on the right), current poll ratings pre bin Laden would put Huckabee ahead of Obama and in the so called 'NASCAR belt' he has strong support. His positions are the standard extreme right of the Republican Party on issues such as abortion (opposed even in the case of rape and incest), foreign policy (a strong defence and 50% increase in military expenditure and homosexuality (against same sex marriages and civil unions)Unlike Palin, Huckabee appears to be somewhat less prone to rhetorical gaffes, but he does remind me at least somewhat of the unsuccessful 1964 candidate Barry Goldwater whose tagline:
'In your heart, you know he's right'
was met with the riposte by then President Johnson's team.
'In your guts , you know he's nuts'
A figure beloved of certain Washington columnists, but who would have almost zero recognition over here is Mitch Daniels, current governor of Indiana. another state arguably relatively unknown and unvisited by UK tourists(Unless you're a fan of the Colts or NBA Pacers, or motorracing's Indy 500), Daniels seems by Republican standards quite moderate, but arguably this would probably cost him support in some of the more eccentric states. He does seem to be relatively moderate by the standards of some of the candidates mentioned here. However, by his own admission, he would probably need to better understand the national policy issues he would need to tackle as President. As with some other substantial candidates who I'll consider later on, he also probably thinks Obama will be difficult to beat in 2012 and is biding his time for a run in 2016.
One man who although not formally in the Race yet is widely believed to be on the verge of declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination is the former governor of another Northern state, Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. However, in current polls he doesn't get much beyond single figure polling and his general lack of charisma is probably best illustrated by his website , and attempt to build some kind of credibility with younger voters who overwhelmingly voted for Obama last time by using the name 'T-Paw' a ploy that looks eerily similar to William Hague's 'baseball cap' gaffe in 1999. I think for different reasons to Palin, Democratic supporters would be licking their lips in the unlikely event he were to win the nomination.
So, a pretty uninspiring bunch to be sure. The question is - who can the Repuplicans find that might fare better than these guys and girls? This post has already taken arguably too long, and a later post will consider the candidates who would IMHO have a very strong chance of beating Obama. Another may also consider in response to the excellent Mehdi Hasan article, which creature within the Mos Eisley Cantina scene corresponds to which candidate.