Thursday, May 06, 2010
Dear Brits: Please Vote for Nick!
We're good friends, right? Aside from our little Yankee rebellion a couple centuries ago and a nasty little war involving our neighbours to the north, which inspired Frances Scott Key to write a poem that became the words to our national anthem, the melody which we stole from a popular pub-drinking song. Yeah...despite those two things, we're friends and allies. We've forgiven you for burning down the White House during President James Madison's administration. In the years since, you've been an indispensable ally on the most important issues. Sure, the USA has special relationships with Canada, France, Israel, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia for various reasons. However, our friendship with you is the most important one.
In 1979, you guys elected the Tories, headed by Margaret Thatcher. A year later, we elected Ronald Reagan of the Republican party. The 1980s is often best remembered as the Reagan-Thatcher era of conservative government with privatization of industry and military buildup. Our countries went through that conservative cycle together, and as Thatcher or Reagan said, they were political soulmates. Reagan and Thatcher. What a pair.
In 1992, however, we Yanks got sick of conservative, tricked-out economics and rejected Reagan's second fiddle George Herbert Walker Bush in favour of the dynamic and charismatic William Jefferson Clinton, with his lawyer wife, youthful sex appeal, and promises of being a "New Democrat." Five years later, you guys followed suit by throwing out Thatcher's flunky John Major in favour of a dynamic and charismatic Tony Blair, with his lawyer wife, youthful sex appeal, and promises of being a "New Labour." Plus, he was hip enough to name every flavour of the Spice Girls (they were certainly all the rage in the UK and the USA in 1997).
Clinton and Blair were instrumental in forming a new political philosophy known as "Triangulation", which was considered brilliant at the time. The strategy was to center themselves between the extremists on the right and left. The Democratic Leadership Council moved the Democratic Party towards the corporate right, while the New Labour Party also moved to the corporate right. From the standpoint of now, "Triangulation" has been more like "Strangulation." The corporate conservativism of the Democratic Party led to a situation where Americans were too confused between Bush and Gore (or as Bill Maher referred to them: Gush and Bore) in 2000. It allowed leftist like Ralph Nader to claim that there wasn't a dime's bit of difference between the two candidates. Bush called himself a "compassionate conservative" (despite having executed the most prisoners during his 6 year term as governor--more than any other governor) while Gore wore earth tones because some consultant advised him to based on a poll.
We know how 2000 turned out. Unfortunately for Great Britain, Prime Minister Blair found himself in an awkward position. The Republican Party and the Conservative Party are natural allies because they represent the same interests in our respective countries. Likewise, the Democratic Party and the Labour Party are also natural allies. What to make of a Republican Party and Labour Party alliance, though? Because President Bush needed an ally from a major European power to legitimize his invasion of Iraq after Russia, Germany, and France saw it as the folly it turned out to be, Prime Minister Blair was strangely complicit in this fool's errand. In your country, he rightfully became known as "Bush's poodle." He struck me as the kind of weakling who went along with whatever the bully wanted, unable to stand up to the bully on the side of the bullied. His endorsement of Bush's failed war policies should forever remain a black mark on whatever accomplishments he achieved for Britain (such as revitalizing the Labour Party and its liberal policies, modernizing the United Kingdom away from stodgy Thatcherism). In some striking ways, Prime Minister Blair is a lot like President Lyndon B. Johnson: good on the domestic politics, horribly wrong in foreign policy by engaging in a disasterous and illegal war overseas.
In 2004, many Brits had the well-meaning to write personal letters to American voters in swing districts in the critical state of Ohio. You wanted to explain to the American voter just how badly our president was viewed by the rest of the world. I was one who would have welcomed your letter and friendship, because it was nice to know that there are people on this planet who weren't brainwashed into thinking that Bush was "the greatest president our country has ever had" (no b.s., I actually know people who believe that!). Unfortunately, though, too many of my fellow countryfolk are xenophobic and wouldn't stand for foreigners telling them how to vote. I have no idea how many people might have changed their minds and voted for Bush because they were offended by your well-meaning letters to vote for John Kerry. Too many Americans are disengaged from our politics and don't understand that people around the world might be more interested in our politics than they are. However, they aren't about to be shown up by some snobby foreigners who think they know best.
As an internationalist, myself, I love meeting people around the world who are engaged in political awareness, regardless of the country. As an American, I wanted Corazon Aquino to win the presidency in the Philippines in 1986, and Violetta Chamorro to win in Nicaragua, and Benazir Bhutto to win in Pakistan. I was definitely praying for Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress to win in South Africa's first multiracial election in 1994. I was glad to see Vaclav Havel elected to lead Czechoslovakia out of communism. I wanted Mikhail Gorbachev to continue in office after the 1991 coup against him. I was happy when Tony Blair won in 1997. I still dream of the day when the National League for Democracy is allowed to run the government in Burma after their electoral landslide in 1990, with Aung San Suu Kyi as the Prime Minister. In France, I rooted for Segolene Royal to win in the 2007 election, but wasn't too sad to see a man named Nicolas become president. You see, we Nicholases have got to stick together.
Thus, as a Nicholas who is also a great fan of a South African musician with the last name Clegg, it should come as no surprise that I would love to see Nick Clegg become the next Prime Minister of your great country. The Labour Party has become a tired party, without ideas, and far too corporate for its own good. They made a huge mistake backing Bush in the war against Iraq and it has done neither your country nor ours any good. We are in a global economic crisis today, in part because of the disasterous war policies on borrowed money. The question you Brits face is, do you want to continue with this tired corporate party that aims to be "Conservative Party-lite" or do you want to return to the era of Thatcherism by going ahead and supporting a newly revitalized Conservative Party? Or, do you want to give a third party a chance to prove what they've got?
What have you got to lose? The Labour Party has moved too far to the right that it is no longer relevant. The Liberal Democratic Party is the progressive party today. With their energy and ideas, they can move the British Isles in a new direction. You guys will need some invigoration, especially when the world comes visiting in the summer of 2012. Nick Clegg is the guy to lead Great Britain into the new decade. Please vote for the Liberal Democratic Party. As a Yank who cares about the liberal cause worldwide, I envy you guys for having a viable third party to vote for. In our country, I often want to vote for the Green Party, but don't want to see the Republicans win, so I end up voting Democratic most of the time. If I was an English voter, though, I would be casting my vote for the Liberal Democratic Party's member of Parliament in whatever district I lived in. I would love to see another world leader named Nick on the world stage. As I've known all my life, Nicholas means "Victory of the People." Please, Britons, make that definition come true today!
Nicholas the Yank