The ugly face of U.S. politics will NOT help New Zealand


In a geology class one day whilst describing coastal marine environments in a geological context, an overhead transparency sheet was put up describing the history of the marine sediments under Christchurch. It was called A Tale of Two Transgressions (Not American Politics). It caused widespread hilarity because it was the year 2000 and Al Gore was racing one George Walke Bush to become the 41st U.S. President. 16 years later, with another presidential race starting I quite agree that whilst this particular one was not talking about American politics, there are definitely two transgressions in U.S. politics.

It depends on your political standpoint what those two transgressions are, but for me it is two parties that have gone rogue and whose members are sufficicently furious with the establishment to be promoting two people whose broad appeal has nothing to do with their experience holding high office. They have the media forever scrambling to find stronger language to describe what they are report, trying ever more desperately to look the other way instead of admitting their idols are in trouble. Such is the fringe Democrat and the rabid mob of Republicans who are taking the “Establishment” to the cleaners.

But oh dear. Oh dearie me. A man quoting Benito Mussolini is leading the Republican caucuses. That man is Donald Trump, and the Republican candidates chasing him have for the time being stopped worrying about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Instead they have started panicking over the fact that a billionaire man who has married three times, wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States and thinks torture is good. They are for the time being concentrating most of their fire on him. For once evangelical Christian Ted Cruz and arch rival Marco Rubio are co-operating – loosely – in their pursuit of bringing Mr Trump down.

Sometimes the Democrats are not much better. Mrs Clinton seems to be aghast that after her agreeing to let Barak Obama lead the U.S. for eight years, that her shoo in for the Democrat nomination seems to be going astray as a 74 year old man from the northeast . The main news stations are ignoring Mr Sanders and trying to avoid the fact that he has taken four of the 11 states in Super Tuesday. Scared of her record as Secretary of State coming unstuck, Mrs Clinton has been seen telling security at her rallies to remove hecklers including ex-military personnel.

I will be blunt. The state of United States politics the Republican caucuses and to a lesser extent the Democrat ones is plain ugly. There is nothing civil about the state of it, nothing we should be excitedly showing and saying to our children “this is how you conduct yourself in public”. I feel sorry for every American who knows people overseas and is wondering what they think of their politicians as it must be frankly embarrassing.

From 12,000 kilometres away I cannot see how this will possibly help New Zealand in any way. Certainly it is not helping peoples perceptions of American politics, which fascinate and repel in equal measure. And although Beehive staffers seem to think that Hillary Clinton has the inside running because she is well known and her husband Bill has been to New Zealand before when he was 42nd President of the United States, Hillary has some stiff competition from Mr Sanders. Her reputation as a corporatist is causing significant unease about what she says that she stands as opposed to what she says she stands for. In her defence though, Bernie Sanders is some distance behind her and unless he has some big wins in the near future, will have to withdraw.

But it is Donald Trump that bothers me and most people I know in New Zealand who care. The rabid bull comes across as an unguided missile, who makes sweeping statements and big threats, but has no answers to quite reasonable questions about how he would pay for things, what policies he would put forward to “make America great again”. And with easily the biggest share of the Republican caucus delegates so far, that is a major problem.

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