The phrase “what’s at stake” has been used a lot in discussions on the upcoming US election in the last few months, and not without reason. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have entirely different views on more or less every hard-line topic you can think of, be it the deficit, immigration, the role of the middle class, Russia, or Big Bird.
As a British-French national living in the UK I find it hard to compare this election to any others that I can remember in terms of the dichotomy presented by two candidates, and I certainly can’t remember one that has pissed me off so much either.
Where should I start? I could begin with the number of lies which have been told by both parties, but the GOP in particular. Starting with Michelle Bachmann out and out lying on Fox News (shock) about a report which concluded that unemployment would rise with Obama in office for another term, when in fact it stated the exact opposite. Or how about the eye-watering number of times in the last few months that a Republican candidate has expressed views on rape that were shipped straight in from the Middle Ages? Or we could talk about Obama deciding the first Presidential debate was the opportune time to take that well deserved nap. Or this mythical 20% taxcut that would, miraculously, not increase the US deficit but that no-one seems able of properly outlining. Or just Paul Ryan, in general.
I’m fascinated by US politics. US politics make British politics look like an overrunning game of tennis by comparison. They’re full of these big cinematic characters with fantastic hair and without speech impediments. Mitt Romney for example, looks like a terrifying mix of Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan, and I’m not entirely unconvinced that Paul Ryan isn’t actually a politicised Nathan Scott from popular teen drama One Tree Hill. . Obama and Romney actually squared up to each other in the second debate like they were characters on a corner in The Wire. Brilliant.
US politics are also world changing - there is no other nation in the world who can claim to have as wide reaching influence as the United States. When the US housing bubble burst in 2007, the shock was felt around the world. When Obama named France as America’s closest ally, there was an audible sigh of relief from those of us still choking on the bile of the Bush/Blair years. No word yet on what Mitt Romney thinks of Francois Hollande’s 75% tax rate for the super-rich mind.
Central to the US election this year has been the issue of women’s rights, and in particular women’s control over their own reproductive organs. Mitt Romney wants to cut Planned Parenthood, overturn Roe v. Wade, and believes that an employer’s faith is the deciding factor in whether or not a woman has access to contraception on her health insurance. He has also backed the “Human Life Amendment” to the US constitution that would see the belief that life begins at fertilisation become a legal mandate and would severely restrict fertility practices like IVF. A consequence of this is that a woman who didn’t feel able to carry a child would be legally obliged to do so, while a woman unable of conception would be denied the appropriate treatment.
Obama, in stark contrast, has openly supported Planned Parenthood and has publicly celebrated the anniversary of Roe v. Wade several years running. When the famous shitwitted “radio host” Rush Limbaugh called college student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a“prostitute”.for speaking up on her view that contraceptives should be included on her health insurance, Obama invited her to be a featured speaker at the DNC. On the flipside, Mitt Romney is still backing one lunatic who stated in a televised debate that pregnancy through rape is “something that God intended.” Who the flying fuck is teaching these people sex ed? Nurse Ratched?
I’ve taken a lot of what's gone on in the run up to the US election personally. I’ve taken it personally that some sanctimonious middle-aged man with a bad spray tan believes that his moral considerations on abortion are so much graver than my own that he would take away my right to even consider one. I’ve been offended that by Romney’s assessment, my 92 year old grandmother who receives a state pension and relies on the NHS for medical treatment must therefore consider herself to be entitled, and to be a victim. I’d like to see him try to tell her that. And I’ve taken it personally that Mitt Romney’s position on pornography is that “tolerance for pornography [...] and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare, have led to today's grim realities: ...(the amount of kids) born out of wedlock."
I am a kid born out of wedlock and while I may not be American, I can’t think that many people would be thrilled at being defined as a “grim reality” or denoted as the consequence of some terrible sexual deviance. Can someone please confirm for me that we definitely are in fact in the 21st century? This emphasis on the value of nuclear norms is something I’ve only ever seen before on season one of Mad Men, and I laughed at it then for how hilariously retro it all was. But we’ve had the Civil Rights movement since then, we’ve had the Stonewall riots. We’ve also had the AIDS epidemic. We have been liberated and we’ve seen the consequences of marginalisation.
That’s a good part of what I consider to be “at stake” in this election: the social values imposed by the president of the country that has led the majority of world politics since I’ve even been aware of having a political consciousness. I doubt anyone on the political left is really interested in living like people did in season one of Mad Men. Betty Draper looked like she had no fun ever, except when she was shooting pigeons.
Image via Women for Obama