Apparently you guys over in the States had an election or something. Well, go figure so did we. For the last nine years New Zealand has had a centre-left[-ish] government while Australia and the US were centre[-ish]-right... well, now it's the other way about.
(Gods, I'm a slack blogger. With both elections over I no longer have any excuse for this userpic. I did mean to post something political before November. Never got the time, what with assignments and tests and Gyro issues.)
OK. American election first. What happened there, and what does it mean?
Presumably, those of you who are Americans presumably know better than I do just what Obama stands for and what he's up to. What I've heard over here is that he opposes the Iraq War, wants a better health system than the private-insurance-company one you've got, and has answers for the economic downturn. And isn't George Bush or anyone like him.
I must admit, I had my doubts. Over here in New Zealand, we can get a general idea of who's going to win an American election: it's the one who gets talked about more beforehand. Now to start with, it was going to be whoever won out of Obama and Clinton, and after that it was going to be Obama... and then, for a good solid month, it was going to be Sarah Palin.
I don't blame McCain for picking Palin. He must have seen gods know how many American elections, so he'd have known he needed someone who'd steal the limelight away from The First Ever Black United States President. He also must have heard about James Dobson's Focus on the Family broadcast telling the American Religious Right not to vote for a president who wasn't hard-line anti-abortion; given the influence the Religious Right has had in the last thirty years, I don't blame him for trying to get back on side with them by choosing a small-town Pentecostal for high office. Especially after he beat out a couple of deeply religious rivals for the Republican nomination. That must have rankled.
We all freaked out about someone as ignorant as Palin getting so close to the Leadership Of The Free World, and I guess enough Americans freaked out that McCain's gamble didn't pay off. But truthfully, I don't think she'd have been Vice President for long; he'd have found some excuse to ditch her and put in someone sensible once she'd served her tactical purpose.
I'm still not at all sanguine about the United States' future. Peak Oil is still an ominous shadow on the horizon, and I can't help thinking the Wall Street crash is a sign of things to come. Yes, I know the proximate cause was people defaulting on mortgages they couldn't afford. And maybe there's nothing more to it than that; maybe credit and mortgage debt just pushed the economy past some kind of tipping point and that's all it was. But I can't help thinking it's got to be harder to pay off a mortgage, or a credit card, when the cost of living is rising. And the cost of living is tied to the cost of fuels, and the cost of fuels is tied to the availability of easily extractable crude oil. "Easily extractable" is a crucial part of that sentence; it's not about how much energy you can pull out of the ground, it's about the energy you pull out of the ground minus the energy you had to put in to get it. To those muttering darkly about oil shales and Pacific oil reserves and oil companies conspiring to keep the price up forget it.
But of course Palin and her ilk have an entirely different explanation for economic crashes and natural disasters and war, one they haven't been shy about using in the last decade: God is punishing America for being soft on abortion and homosexuality. There's been a bit of a backlash against them in the last couple of years, but if the economy continues to falter and, barring some very quick and radical action, it will they'll be back. In the easy times, more moderate Christians could turn and say to them "God doesn't do that." Eh, well look up your Old Testament. God does do that. A lot.
Their solution, presumably, will be a return to the Puritan values of (their mythologized version of) the early United States. This will not help. Shutting down sex education which they've already done and closing abortion clinics their avowed goal will result in a baby boom, in an economy where the government long since gave up the responsibility for health-care and the private sector can no longer afford it. Child mortality will leap, as will demand for foodstuffs and medicines and other basic necessities. Another economic crash.
From which they will conclude that God is still angry and they still have enemies to drive out. They will turn if they haven't already to attacking atheists and other non-Christians. Since religion correlates negatively with education this will create a rapid brain-drain. The US will lack the expertise to solve its problems with technology; with a depressed economy and a hostile religious regime, it will not attract foreign expertise either. The situation will worsen.
Guess where the Religious Right will go with that? Gosh, whoops, we were wrong to kick out those evil evolutionist scientists? Oh dear, we should have taught our kids how to have sex without having babies? Not on your nadgers. What we have here is a classic positive feedback loop.
Here's another example of a positive feedback loop: you touch a flame to paper, and it gets hot enough to start oxidizing. The oxidizing reaction generates lots of heat, which raises the temperature of the surrounding paper so that it too starts oxidizing... and so on. (Or is that a chain reaction? Very similar principle, anyway.) In my Pentecostal days we used to talk about "setting the world on fire for God". It may yet happen.
How far can a positive feedback loop go? It keeps going until it has exhausted its fuel, until there is nothing left to burn or collapse. We are talking a new Fascism here, not "fascism" in scare quotes but the real deal, and one that may well even dwarf the fascisms of the twentieth century. None of them had nukes.
Can Obama turn all that aside? I don't know. I think he can delay it. If he can shore up the economic crisis, revitalize American education, reduce the income gap (as well as being tumours on the economy, income gaps correlate strongly with religion), and fix the healthcare problem, all without pissing people off enough to get rid of him, then there's a chance America will survive a few years longer. Those years will of course be for nought if they're not spent finding a viable, renewable alternative to oil and setting up an economic system that allows growth in unprosperous times but tails off that growth before it overshoots resource limits. But both those goals are achievable if the US doesn't collapse first.
Damn it, I was going to do both elections in one post, but it's getting a bit late now. I hereby promise that I will blog again in another couple of days.