Monday, 4 February 2008

Vote for Paolo

I was sorry when Edwards bowed out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Even though I knew he wouldn't win you still hold out to hope and now I could not choose between Clinton and Obama, in fact to be blunt I would vote for neither were they standing for election here in Britain but then my politics are slightly to left of mainstream America. Choosing a political party is always something of a compromise; you're never going to find a party that exactly matches your beliefs unless you start one yourself which got me thinking -- what would a Paolo Party do in America? Here is a manifesto of ten policies, five domestic and five international by which you can imagine. They are in no particular order:

Domestic

1. Nationalised healthcare. You have a healthcare system in which being ill makes it harder to get treatment...talk about putting the cart before the horse. I cannot imagine the resentment that must lie in poor neighbourhoods where people cannot afford medical insurance but see billions of dollars spent fighting wars overseas. I would also contemplate nationalising the pharmaceuticals too as a connected issue.

2. Political Funding. The funding of political parties should be done by the state. No longer should elections be fought on the basis of which party has the biggest fighting fund, nor should there be question marks over political decisions in which there are clear vested interests. Lobbying should also be replaced by active consultation -- it is only right that government decisions are informed, but not bought.

3. Liberalize - I've never quite understood the matching of economic liberalism and social conservatism in America, but yes, social liberty should be championed. Legalise gay marriage, marijuana (taxed of course), prostitution in brothels (properly regulated), stem cell research. I'm sure there is more to add in this section but they all relate to a fourth issue:

4. Decouple church and state: you're supposed to be a democracy not a theocracy and religious practice should never be made to seem a civic duty. This also ties into an international aim of giving aid to charities who promote birth control as a means of halting the progress of aids in Africa. Personally I'd rather save lives than 'souls'. This also ties into an important policy:

5. Separation of power: Politically appointed judges are an appalling breach of the principle of separation of the executive and judicial branches of power. Politically appointed or elected judges will always have the question hanging over their heads as to whether the decision they make in any given case is on political grounds. Judges should apply the law that is their only function and their appointment should be on the grounds of their legal competence by an independent panel.


Foreign

6. Torture - whether you do it yourselves or use extraordinary rendition to get someone else to do it for you it's never right and can be justified on no grounds, that is an absolute. This means closing down Guantanamo by the way.

7. No more chequebook diplomacy - Either aid is needed or it isn't, threatening to withdraw aid to swing a decision at the UN is wrong on so many grounds, not to mention the undermining of the entire international law system.

8. Get the troops home - Iraq needs to stand on it's own two feet, whilst the troops are there America will always seem a divisive force.

9. Come into the fold - on the build up to the first world war Britain held itself in what she called 'splendid isolation'. America's relationship with the rest of the world of recent years in respect of the middle east, climate change, African debt and so on, has appeared unilateral and isolationist. Lead through consensus not arrogance or self-interest.

10. Be a force for good - you don't need to look much further back than Roosevelt for inspiration on this one.

Ten ideas off the top of my head -- would I get elected? No, I doubt I'd get a single vote but that's what Paolo's America would look like.

16 comments:

ello said...

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, perhaps I'll write you in. I too was saddened by Edwards leaving the race, and the whole circus of the elections tends to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. I still have to make up my mind about tomorrow's vote . . .
Would you *really* not vote for either Hillary or Obama in the gneral election? I don't think we should take a Democratic win for granted, although it does certainly look likely at this point. I was certain that Kerry would win in the last election, since people were so unhappy with Bush, and was totally shocked when he lost.

Paolo said...

I couldn't quite believe that Bush won again , not only won but increased his majority -- actually won the popular vote but there is only one explanation for that; September 11th and his ruthless exploitation of those events. From what he's gotten away with since the whole thing reminds me of Hitler's exploitation of the burning of the Reichstag to fulfil his own agenda.

Money is why I wouldn't vote for either candidate. It is no accident that the Labour Party rose to prominence in England at the same time as the growth of the trade union movement because being an MP was an unsallaried position meaning that only rich or middle classed people could afford to do it. The trade unions paid for Labour Party and the salary of MPs who were elected meaning that they were entirely responsible to working people. When I hear how much money Obama gets from the medical insurance companies (I don't even want to know whose backs Clinton has been scratching) I can't help but wonder to who are they responsible to? I can tell you something for free; it isn't the American people.

:)

misswa said...

Yes, it is all rather disheartening. I listened to the debates on Monday night and was not feeling particularly fired up to go cast my vote for anyone afterwards. When I went to the polling place I found that all previous candidates were still on the ballot, and since I'm in a state where an Obama win was a foregone conclusion, I went ahead and marked down for Kucinich. I did so in part because I was so frustrated with the way media coverage and money left me with only two choices by the time my vote came around - and because he's the candidate that best matches my ideals. I don't know if he would be the man to get us down from this precarious position we're in, but I hope someday we can elect good leaders out of hope and not fear.

Who *would* you vote for? Or would you simply not vote in the general election?

If a Republican does win, I will try to convince my entire family to leave the country with me. Or is that giving up? It is painful to be an American during an age when very few people in the rest of the world have many, if any, positive associations with the word. But I suppose that those of us who seek change should just try harder if things get worse.

Paolo said...

The problem with those political debates is that they don't take on any substantive issues. Tony Benn used to say there were two kinds of politician:

"there are the signposts who point the way they think we should go and the weathercocks who haven’t got an opinion, until they’ve studied the polls, focus groups and spin doctors. I have no time for weathercocks and prefer signposts even if I think they point in the wrong direction."

Clinton and Obama are both weathercocks, they talk in broad sweeping statements and mindless platitudes but ask anyone to pin them down to a single policy and they'd struggle because they're both entirely without substance. This is one of the things that really frustrates me about politics, this election is fundamentally going to be fought on the respective personalities of the candidates alone. Tony Blair did the same here, he created a cult of personality in the labour party and when he left there was a vacuum because it had become all about him -- Gordon Brown clearly doesn't have a personality.

There are no parties or candidates that reflect my views so at the next election, if I register I think I shall just spoil the ballot but I half think that a pathetically low turnout would be the best message to send to the politicians...they have ceased to engage the people, they are no longer representative and now arguably have no legitimate authority to govern.

Leaving America in the event of another Republican victory would look like defeat but then there are two other issues -- first would you make a difference if you stayed, and secondly where would you go that would be different?

:)

ello said...

Well, I could at least go somewhere that doesn't exist (and affect the world) on such a ginormous scale. That alone would be better!

Paolo said...

The political situation is disheartening but focus on the one major positive -- no more Bush.

I was thinking about this entry earlier today, there are so many policies I missed out:

* Ban private ownership of guns, people who still want to shoot for sport can go to gun clubs but the weapons must be kept there and very securely.

*remove the death penalty

*Get rid of that bloody annoying music you have wherever the president turns up -- what is it with that?

The thing is we already have a lot of these things here in England -- what scares me is where we're headed. The chiaroscuro of liberal economics and conservative morality is so deeply ingrained that I can't see it ever happening in America.

:)

ello said...

What is truly disheartening is that you are far, far better informed on what's going on here than the vast majority of people who actually live here. But then, I'm sure I'd be watching like a hawk, too.

Not only would your policies never fly here, they might actually get you killed. People who like their guns really, really like their guns. I am all for gun control, for many reasons, and would heartily support a ban, but two things (at least) make the national attachment to guns a fixture here. The first is our much touted "right to bear arms", of course, although the idea of a militia in the late 1700s is just a completely different thing from a militia now. Honestly, who would be able to accumulate powerful enough weapons - and enough of them! - to stand up to a rogue US government on our own soil? A few megalozillionaires come to mind, but my guess is they wouldn't be on the side of the little guy. Another thing is our national mythos of the cowboy, the open range, the true grit of the settler, man vs. wild etc. In certain parts of the country, hunting rifles make a bit of sense to me. But one does not need hollow-tipped bullets or semiautomatics to defend one's livestock or fill the freezer with meat for the winter.

Sorry for rambling on . . .

Paolo said...

No need to appologise, this entire blog is an exercise in rambling.

I think you're right though, I would be shot. The irony of an Englishman telling the Americans to give up their guns is not lost on me. The little I do know about the revolutionary war (we don't tend to deal with less triumphant chapters in our history classes) is that we were not defeated by an army but by an insurgency of armed militia -- I'm guessing these days they'd be called unlawful combatants and denied Geneva Convention rights. Anywho, satire aside, I can see how the gun has formed a part of America's national conscience and people wouldn't give that up without a fight

It all reminds me of Thomas Hobbes and his rather pessimitic opinions of human nature -- he said if people are so naturally good why do we have locks on our doors? Guns justify their own existance in a way; if you're not armed how will you deal with somebody who has a gun? The inverse of that is true too which is why the British police force do not carry guns because it would only encourage criminals to be armed.

There is no justification for handguns -- I'd ban them in an instant. Hunting, I can see your point on practical levels but you'd want to limit the number that can be in ciculation.

I don't think America is quite ready for me just yet.

:D

ello said...

Well, it never stops, though. How will you deal with someone with a semiautomatic if you've just got a little pistol? What if your gun is upstairs in the gun cabinet and some guy with a gun jumps you when you're unlocking the door to your house? Or, conversely - gee, that guy sure looks like he might have a gun, I'd better shoot first.

There's no accounting for the criminal mind, and living in constant anticipation of violence (which seems to be the justification for concealed-carry supporters) is no way to be. Personally, the most I would ever carry is pepper spray. I have no intentions to hurt anyone; if anyone attacked me physically, I would fight back for sure, but if someone pulls a gun on me? I don't see how me having a gun would help the situation much, honestly.

It is a bit like the Cold War on a smaller scale: we know that *they* have them, so by god *we* need to have them, too.

My mother keeps giving me pepper spray & mace and such, which I think is funny. I did carry it in my coat pocket for a little while, when I first came here to Chicago, but never remembered that it was there and now I haven't the faintest idea where it is. I like to think that if I'm ever attacked, my natural instincts will kick in and I will suddenly be capable of delivering a devastating roundhouse kick.

The best defense, though, at least in terms of street crime, I think is one that everyone would be happier for having. That's a sense of confidence. A dance instructor of mine talks about "looking like a healthy, strong animal" and how awareness of the physical body and a sense of centeredness gives other people the impression that you are not to be messed with, that you belong there, that you're not one of the weak and sick animals at the back of the pack. I'm not saying that I've got this down, but I think it's worth striving for. Another way of putting it is that if you feel scared all the time, other people can see that and it invites reasons to be scared.

On the other hand, I moved here from lovely pastoral Vermont where the police beat page in the newspaper posts things like "Child's Toy Found In Road". On the other, other hand, I was attending a school years ago where a student opened up on the campus with an AK-47 or something like it and killed a friend of mine and a professor of mine. That experience did not make me wish I had been armed; it made me wish that kid had never been able to buy a gun through a loophole in the law.

Paolo said...

You're right it potentially doesn't stop and it certainly wont stop while guns are all too easily accessible in ever more frighteningly lethal forms. The reality is that if someone wants to kill you and are determined to do so then they're probably going to succeed but on a whole society can't live as dictated by the very worse elements within. You cannot live life obsessed by death.

Funny you mention the cold war; there was an excellent skit in Yes, Prime Minister exploring the myth of the nuclear deterrent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX_d_vMKswE

The ironic thing about this war on terror is that the terrorists have won -- in England at least the incredible clamp downs on civil liberties show that they have fundamentally managed to alter the nature of our society in ways many a determined politician has failed.

Melissa said...

You've got my vote. Now we just have to do something about that pesky "natural born citizen" clause. No worries. This is America. Our constitution obviously means nothing. :)

Heather said...

I voted for Paolo and a hell of a lot of good it did me.

r.i.p. skip.

:P

Silvie said...

Hoping I can still read your ramblings here...:))

Paolo said...

@ Melissa - I thought they were going to do that for Arnie. Perhaps his day will come -- be afraid.

@ Heather - the problem with skip is that it was me. I'm nonger sure that living your actual life out on the internet is such a good idea. So it goes...

@ Sylvie - But of course, I cannot lay claim to insight or entertainment just rambling. :)

Heather said...

meh...admit it - it was all just an elaborate ploy to get more readers for your blog! ;)

your misgivings are completely understandable though. best of luck to you. i look forward to reading any blog posts you find time to make.

Silvie said...

Wot Heather said!!!

:)