Posted by: John | September 11, 2008

The divide `across the pond`

The phrase `across the pond` is a congenial one to portray that we are similar to Americans – same language, similar foods etc. Can that still be true? There’s the other phrase `divided by a common language` which seems to signify two sides of the same coin. Is that even true anymore?

It seems that vast armies of Lib Dems, Labour, Greens and a load of Tories are behind Barack Obama. Most people in the UK are perplexed as to what’s going on in the States. It seems to be coming more of a personality contest rather than anything of policy – i worry for this country too and hope we have the good sense to carry on our long tradition of debate and looking at the issues.

Having been to CA, NY and throughout Ohio i know a bit about the US – what struck me then as now is just how backward it all is.

They seem to be at base one at everything compared to Britain:

Healthcare – No NHS and private healthcare with the absurdity of people with cancer having to argue with insurers on the phone

Culture – people actually believing in the totality of creationism and that being thought of as reason in vast swathes of America

Intelligence – the fact that someone has a degree, written books and been a community organiser being regarded as somehow LESS IMPORTANT than someone that seems to know nothing about the job that she’s going for and someone who knows nothing about the Economy

Political discourse – seems to be at base one too or rather `Base` 1 or rock bottom not to mention a VP candidate saying outright lies

Abortion – the idea of no abortions (well almost) seems to hold sway and seen as a reasonable position against our pragmatic view in the UK

Another cultural issue – LGBT rights – we are way ahead of the states both in terms of laws and how we conduct ourselves socially.

Electoral law – seems that in the States partisan people are allowed to create boundaries, make the laws for registering voters etc compared to our own system of the Boundary Commission.

Electoral processes – here we have an opt out system – there it seems to be an opt-in system – sorry in a democracy whether you want to vote or not it is your duty to register otherwise democracy is cheapened even for the sake of turnout calculation purposes. And what’s with these voting machines and long lines – nope, better to have paper and pencil with 5 minutes in and out.

And let’s not forget the fact that in this country we have statutory holidays so that people can really EXPLORE a country and not go round like blue-arsed flies `if Tuesday it’s Rome Wednesday must be Pisa`.

Aside from all that isn’t it good we have tough interviewers on a national broadcasting company (as well as other broadcasters) paid by license fee payers – unlike America where people for the top jobs seem to think you can hide from tame interviewers paid for by special interests?

Let’s face it – compared to this country there are whole swathes of people in the US who seem at best ignorant at worst `thick as pig shit`.

Maybe I’m wrong and people will see sense and vote for their own economic self-interests and start playing catch-up with Britain – if i’m right then I don’t want any American bringing up the Queen and saying `yeh but we’ve got a President`. Give me a titular Head of State any day to a system that is debauched by ignorance, corrupt voting machines and lack of scrutiny.

No, it’ s make or break for the US – either going forward to the future or stagnating in the comfort of past orthodoxies.

If Obama wins we will all breathe a sigh of relief.

If McPalin wins we will all have to reassess where this country stands with the US. Believe me, Gordon Brown is PRAYING FOR AN OBAMA WIN. If any other result ensues tough questions will be asked of him about what exactly the `special relationship` is with the US. New Labour have sold us down the river too many times by cowtowing to the Americans – we should treat the Americans the way they treat us – critically, with objectivity and toughness. We should stop the neo-con economic policies that reward bankers and not ordinary people.

Should McPalin win our relationship with the US will be one of the main political issues – ie what are WE getting out of it?

Perhaps it’ll be the issue that drives Gordon Brown out of No 10 – but Dave Cameron shouldn’t be too complacent – he’ll have to face the same issues too. Perhaps our principled opposition to the Iraq war will serve us well again?



  1. Electoral processes – here we have an opt out system.

    Actually if you read the recently issued register of electors form you most propably have also just been sent we also have an opt in system. The difference is we are sent the form annually to fill in a pre-paid envelope to send back any amendments to the information they currently have. You of course can send updates when you do move etc.

  2. Yes – the difference is that CULTURALLY it is regarded an important thing for the mass majority of people that they are on the register.

  3. The NHS is backward. The problem in the US is not lack of an NHS but government interference in the health market which restricts access and ramps up prices. The sooner people get it in their heads that the standard of care is higher in the US than in the UK by miles and that the NHS is a broken system which is laughed at by the rest of the world (apart from state socialists like Michael Moore who want the state to run our lives) the better.

    Your intelligence point? Its politics. Its dirty, its the same in the UK. Its not about what you can actually do, its about how you present yourself.

    Political discourse in the UK is just as bad. Also bear in mind that both sides in the US are guilty of the sin you claim.

    LGBT rights – there’s quite rightly resistence to enshrining such artificial rights in law in the US. In many places LGBT is accepted, even in rural Indiana (which I know pretty well). Of course there are bigots – but look in the UK. Bigots. There’s more of them in the US because the US is bigger.

    We have an opt-in system. Its just illegal not to opt-in. Remember also that the US was not founded as a democracy, but as a Republic. Also, democracy is not the be all and end all. In fact it produces vastly negative outcomes when government is allowed to expand its scope, as has happened across the world.

    Why the fuck are mandatory holidays a good thing? Let people negotiate their own holidays, or ask a union to do it for them. Or are people incapable of determining their best interests and must be helped by their betters? (of course, the US has a problem where workers are oppressed by government policy – but that’s a different matter). Anyway, you show your ignorance here – there are federal holidays and states can institute their own if they wish. Being a supporter of democracy surely you accept that, people can choose? Or aren’t they allowed to make ‘the wrong’ decision.

    As for the US ‘catching up’, I’m disappointed to say they are. They’re trying to institute ID cards, increasing government intrusion into personal lives and attacking civil liberties almost as much as HMG. Their economy isn’t quite as bad as ours, but both candidates want to make it as bad.

    Your whole past smacks of the ignorant anti-Americanism which so pervades the ‘left’. America has problems, some very big ones, but you have failed to identify them. Instead you sit comfortable in your illusion of British superiority.

    As a side note, I personally hope Obama will win, not because I like him, but because he’s at least not bat-shit insane and chomping at the bit to attack other countries. He’s still a big state, anti-liberal, anti-freedom, pro-status quo candidate. In essence they are both Tories in the classical sense. The Whig opposition is formed of people like Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, some of the Green Party and possibly Bob Barr (although that’s not clear).

  4. Most people in Britain want the NHS to continue – it’s simple, inclusive and much easier to understand. I ask you do you really want vulnerable people with cancer having to negotiate with insurance companies? Yes the standard might be higher yet that is really for the lucky and the insured. What happens when employers change the coverage?

    I hope to God that we never get to the situation in the US where the political dialogue is dragged to the level we have seen in the US this week. My guess is that we won’t. Our politics (thanks to the BBC, and an educated middle class) is largely issue driven – witness the 10p tax furore.

    Perhaps you’d like to share where Barack Obama had outrightly lied to the electorate? Or has been so corrupt in its abuse of power – ie in Alabama recently or with Mr Gonzales? I trust that we now have the scrutiny in this country that would prevent that. We still have a way to go though where people feel they can ALLOW themselves psychologically to vote for what they want rather than what they are told to want.

    Good laws do shape the social conciousness of a nation – and the LGBT changes in recent years pioneered by the old Liberal Party then taken up by both Lib Dems and Labour (with Conservative mavericks) have helped that along by LEGISLATION! I’m really not sure if i’d like to chance my arm by stating my sexuality in normal discourse on an equal level in rural Alabama.

    Culturally i still think that our democracy is OPT OUT rather than OPT IN – the mechanics might be opt in though most people feel it is their duty to at least register as part of the prowess of being British.

    As for the public holidays question I really do question whether you’re in the right party – I can’t see of any other Lib Dem following your line of reasoning because they feel it’ll be on the wrong side of the rights/responsibilities argument. Perhaps you have never been on the sharp end of say the call-centre industry where they give you the very minimum entitlement or as a temp pre-new regulations where you go from contract to contract using time off to find new work.

    One only has to look back 100 years in this country where you got one day off a week and a few days at Christmas etc. It was only unions and others that changed that. Why? Because it makes economic common sense to give people such holidays. Not only does it affect their performance it also affects their mental well-being. I’m sure the corporatist Republican Party in Alabama would be willing to give four weeks entitlement to workers – nope didn’t think so – their view is that ANYTHING that affects the bottom line is a bad thing. Unfortunately big business looks after itself – people are inert and you can’t guarantee them to be humane, indeed on this issue you have to assume that they aren’t in my experience!

    The US is catching up and we’re resisting the things that are bad in their new civil liberties changes. I don’t think ID cards will happen here – and I think if McPalin wins they and other unnecessary changes that the US would like us to comply with will be resisted.

    I don’t sit comfortably in my illusion of British superiority, rather I sit uncomfortably in my REALITY of British superiority! Are you seriously saying that a country who, after the past eight disastrous years, can still make the Republicans a competing force when they have Barack Obama as change agent is on a par with Britain? Yes there may be things that they have done that are brilliant (Microsoft, Bernstein, Apple) etc – the problem is that their lack of equality is vast and they don’t have the cultural means to change it.

    Our political system gives vast political power to some `middle Englanders` in marginal seats but at least they work and produce things. The US political system seems to give advantage to people who are happy for the US to stagnate as long as they can stew in a reactionary fervour of God, Guns and being anti-Gay. Marx was right in this respect of what he said about religion.

    As for bigger state economics the biggest ones seem to be Sarah Palin and her earmarks – so i agree with you there.

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