The rest of the world may not want Bush back,
but America just might...

It was in 1964 at the impressionable age of 16 that I was fortunate enough to visit the United States for the first time. To fully understand the impact the USA had upon me, we must realise how life was in Britain in the early sixties. Although London was just starting to 'swing' the North of England where I came from was grey, drab and economically in decline.

It is difficult to imagine how advanced America seemed then. Coming from a country where people drove small narrow black Ford Populars and even smaller white Austin Minis, the giant slabs of multi-coloured Pontiacs and Chevrolets floating up and down wide Freeways with rocket fins tails could not fail to turn my head. Arriving in New York I found the radio dial was full of stations playing, somewhat ironically, British music led by the Beatles. Music that in Britain was limited to 3 hours a week courtesy of the BBC's 'Light Programme'. Our two-channel diet of British black and white television started at 5pm each evening. New York then had at least 15 TV stations, all in colour, transmitting 24 hours a day.

America was vibrant, full of energy and very exciting to a sixteen-year-old. The outgoing and easy nature of Americans made British reserve look cold and so old-fashioned and so it seemed to me that the USA was years in advance of Britain. Times have changed, the world has become smaller and America has come to us. I recall visiting the first McDonalds in London in 1974. For a brief moment it was a novelty to relive my American experience; now a tidal wave of Americanization washes round the world.

Forty years ago the USA under President Johnson was digging itself in for a long and lonely war in Vietnam. Today our world has changed and American foreign policy is something that the world cannot ignore. Conflicts cannot be limited to the shores and borders of one country anymore. What the USA does in Iraq will affect everyone, from train passengers in Madrid to revellers in Bali Nightclubs; from the price we pay for petrol to the value of our pension fund.

On Tuesday America votes for the most important and powerful job in the world. This is the first 'post 9/11' election and the last four years have seen the powerful job of President become even more powerful. It is more than ironic that the USA who would force democracy on others has an electoral system that many find undemocratic. Why in a country of over 290 million can so few candidates for President be found? What happened to the principle of 'anyone can be President'? Once a boy from a poor family from the woods of Kentucky could grow up to be President, as did Abraham Lincoln. Today potential Presidents need to be multi-millionaires. Even so America has enough intelligent millionaires to put forward dozens of candidates. Where are they?

In this post 9/11 election the usual political topics like health care, poverty, gun control, employment, abortion and illegal immigration have all been overshadowed by the war on terrorism. It is of course to the advantage of Bush to stoke the fires of Americans' fears by constantly reminding his public of the danger they now live in and the necessity of toppling Sadam's regime. This justifies his actions and hides other themes that he might not have answers for, like why the US budget has swung from a surplus when Bush was elected to a massive deficit today.

Actually, I misunderstood America on my first visit. The USA appears advanced in many fields, but its people remain at heart very traditional with a deep conservative tendencies. Many Americans simply do not think in the same way as Europeans. Here liberalism thrives. There the death sentence, the right to bear arms and the issue of abortion reflect the nation's thinking. These non-issues to European voters have been strengthened in post-9/11 America. Both Bush and Kerry are traditionalists and committed Christians; a candidate who was not both would have no chance of being elected.

We do not have a 'European Dream'. The American Dream was the main reason that Californians elected Arnold Schwarzenegger their governor. It would be unthinkable for the British to elect, say, Sean Connery as Prime Minister, but 'Arnie' fulfilled the requirements of the American Dream, coming from a humble home and through his own labours and enterprise worked his way to the top. An old US law passed in 1787 prevents non native-born Americans standing for President, but as bizarre as it may seem, we could yet see the 'Terminator' heading for the White House. This thought alone makes the prospect of four more years of Bush seem much less frightening.

If Kerry wins, do not expect much change. If Bush wins, do not be surprised.