Monday 13 August 2007

American Conservatism Halted?

The political divide in Hammersmith and Fulham stretched all the way across the Atlantic in 2004. Labour sent support to the Democratic candidate; John Kerry and H&F Conservatives actively took sides with President George W. Bush’s Republican Party. One local Tory councillor is so devout a supporter of the Republican’s brand of conservatism that he had a National Rifle Association (the super-powerful pro-gun lobby) poster on his wall. Even today, many of our local Tory councillors have strong links with the Republican’s right-wing conservative base. People will rightly wonder what motivates both local political groups to take such an interest in American politics and I suppose there are many answers. One clear driver is that the USA sets the political climate for the World and we can all see how that has influenced life the UK.

Dark clouds began to settle over the international political horizon when George W. Bush claimed the White House in 2000. By 2004, the presidential election demonstrated the grip that the American conservative movement had on that society. The Christian right, the gun lobby and anti-tax Republicans all came together to run a pro-war, anti gay-marriage, anti-abortion, pro gun-toting campaign that propelled Bush back to the White House on record turnouts.

This week’s Economist has a piece suggesting that the American conservative hegemony is coming to an end. The Economist argues that they’ve “over-reached”. The incompetence surrounding Hurricane Katrina, the economy, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Iraq combined with the un-American activities of Guantánamo, the corruption around congressman Tom DeLay and the criminal sleaze associated with Scooter Libby has all caused the Bush Presidency to implode. The Economist suggest that this may have taken the Republican machine out for a generation. We’ll have to see.

I do know that the issues Americans care about are leaning the Democrats' way. Polls show that 54% of US voters now believe that “the government should help the needy”. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has led the debate for health care for all and the American public seems to be responding positively.

The Economist says 50% of Americans now align themselves with the Democrats. The New York Times reported that the figure is higher amongst the 17 to 29 age group. All this suggest that a Democrat will occupy the White House after the 2008 election. Many will agree that this offers a much brighter prospect for America and for the international political climate.

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