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American Politics Explained to the Brits

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In this hilarious piece on the US elections, written for the BBC*, US political commentator P. J. O'Rourke makes all the observations we would make, if only we were that clever.  Here are some of the main points.

"The US presidential field" he says, "has begun to narrow at last. Although, to judge by who's left, this is not because of quality control."  I was laughing so hard, I laughed through the rest of the piece.

After briefly making fun of Trump**, he goes on to ponder the mindset of a large proportion of the American Electorate.  "America," he says, "is a pretty good place," a sentiment I must strain to agree with.  It certainly is good for the most affluent, but the number of unhappy people is very high.  Some are unhappy because they feel they deserve a bigger piece of the pie, but they're of the opinion that their share is being taken by the Government, and given to the undeserving poor.  The others are unhappy because they know exactly where the pie is going, namely to the most affluent, the owners of big businesses.  This is, to my mind, the most insightful portion of the article.

Then, the author goes on to mock Bernie Sanders, saying that the ideas he's putting forward had been abandoned long before the present generation of Sanders supporters had been born, back in the Seventies.  However, to those who are concerned that if the US population continues to play the game by the rules of US Business, we're not going to be left with much of anything, it's worth trying one last time to reclaim some of that lost territory.  Every year that goes by with politicians in power under the control of Big Business, it becomes that much harder to make life tolerable for those with minute incomes.

O'Rourke's next observation is both amusing and thought-provoking.  "For the rest of America what's not amusing is Bernie labelling himself a socialist. The word has a particular and peculiar meaning in the US. If you say 'I'm a socialist,' what Americans hear is, 'I'm going to take your flat-screen TV and give it to a family of pill addicts in the backwoods of Vermont.' "  This is absolutely true.  Socialists, to Americans, are people who take things away.  In the rest of the world, Socialists are people who arrange for people to have things.  You gotta pay higher taxes, but usually not much higher for the vast majority of taxpayers than they pay when non-socialists are around.  Non-socialists give breaks to a very small sector of the population.  You get to guess exactly to whom.

The author makes an interesting point.  In a year in which, he says, everybody wants major change: the Democrats for big changes in the election laws, in government control of banks, etc; the Republicans for huge reductions in taxes, and repeal of Obamacare, and an assault on gay marriage, etc, Hillary Clinton offers more of the same.  Again, this is obvious once the point has been made.

The remaining candidates of both sides get their share of attention from O'Rourke, who has incisive things to say about each of them, in a lighthearted tone that has been sadly missing in the political conversation for close to a year.

Another piece about why Americans are angry, on the state of the electorate in the US caught my eye; this one is far more serious in tone, and earnestly tries to understand the American mindset of the moment, especially the anger and frustration.  In the end, though the statistics are revealing, we don't really understand a lot of what that article reports.  It is hard for left-leaning folks to understand the frustration of the Right; it seems to us that the Right has damn well got what it wants.  Of course, it is in the nature of Capitalism that Capital is never satisfied with its enormous share of the wealth.

*British Broadcasting Corporation, in case you didn't know.
**Donald Trump, in case you were wondering.


This post first appeared on I Could Be TOTALLY Wrong, But ..., please read the originial post: here

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American Politics Explained to the Brits

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