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Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, US Politics.

I doubt in this election season in what passes now for democratic debate and dialectic we will hear President Obama proclaim, “I am proud to be liberal”.

Closer at home, we would have heard John Howard, although not in these words, “I am proud to be conservative”. The current leader of the Liberal Party does not express is conservative pride, but he does consistently use the messaging system, so well established in the United States. George Lakoff is the go-to person for understanding how the sub-text works in the political market place, and how it effectively turns people from voting from their self interest, which in my mind suggests it is profoundly undemocratic. The messaging and the nature of the media channels form a common system. However, Lakoff suggests that “progressives” (whoever) are simply ineffective and too high-minded – something I would not criticize any politician for, it were true.

Traditionally, Australian political culture has been sceptical about rhetoric, other than fawning over the Empire or “great and powerful friends”, and sending off the young to die for their causes. There was something to pragmatic scepticism, when it was intelligent, then it became the platform of the stupid. So we lost our way. By contrast, Candidate John Kennedy could declare in 1960: “I am proud to be liberal”. He had received the president nomination of the Liberal Party of New York. JFK took the trouble to explain what and why (The recording is a bit scatchy):

Much of the text can be read here.

Barack Obama is unlikely to proclaim he is proud to be a liberal, to talk about the proper role of government, or the virtues of the Labor Movement. There was a time, without irony, that  an eloquent American politician could speak of their country and society as a beacon for people elsewhere.Those were the days, my friend. Now it is an international bully, without economic muscle, vision or achievement, and bereft of moral leadership.

I will leave the unpicking the current president to those able to do so. However to be fair to the current president, one should note that through deindustrialization, social inequality, and the march through the institutions of the conservative agenda and corporate money, the democratic system has been profoundly changed, although in Kennedy’s day the Pentagon march to the beat of its own drum into the paddy fields and quagmire of Vietnam. Parenthetically, it is shocking to me, that the naval base at Cam Ranh Bay could be lost with so little consequent. In due course, if not now, the same might be said of the “embassy” in Baghdad.

Following George W Bush, the idea of selecting from the “elites” seems to have gained currency in the American political system. It is not clear whether Obama represents Kennedy’s commitment to public service, although Romney seems an exemplar of capitalism as human jungle, in which accounting outcomes are driven without regard to social and ecological consequences.

 Sara Robinson argues that the  economic framework is a deep historical development that goes back to the South and the plantation system. I would concede that stepping outside the system bubble is not easy, and perhaps most of us. Our systems may yet destroy us. So it is an existential issue, perhaps more important than nuclear proliferation, or more trivially national and individual egotism. 1960 looks like a much simpler world, even as the political problems then and those that developed,such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, were real and significant.


Winners are grinners, yet the 1960 election in the US was extremely close. Over 60% of the electorate voted.



1. vascolet la formula secreta 3 - June 3, 2013

First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts
before writing. I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Thanks!

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