Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a political junkie.
Election day? That’s me instagramming a photo of a democracy sausage, before tuning in to the ABC coverage for the next 24 hours.
Leadership spill? Pass the red wine while I tweet about it using Taylor Swift lyrics – “we are never, ever, ever, getting back together!” (In fact, I’m sure if you take a deep dive into my Twitter, you’ll find the hashtag #taylorswiftlyricsforthelibspill or something similar from 2015).
But as much I love/loathe/can’t stop watching the antics of our own pollies, there’s something irresistible to me about American politics.
The sheer size and scale of that circus is something I completely adore.
I’m the person who watches the Democratic National Convention and then wants to talk about it at the school gate – funnily enough, not many other people are interested!
Where does this love for US politics come from? A couple of places, I think.
Firstly, when I was quite young, I remember seeing a photo in one of my mum’s magazines of this elegant, poised lady, wearing a beautiful scarf on her head and some iconic sunglasses – you guessed it, Jackie Kennedy.
I was entranced. Who was this woman? What was her story? Over the years I’ve read a great deal about Jackie, the Kennedys in general and their trials and tribulations. They’re a fascinating family and for anyone interested in US politics, modern US history and indeed, modern world history, get into it.
The second push into American politics came from a TV show I’m sure many Gen X-ers will be familiar with, The West Wing.
Running from 1999 to 2006, The West Wing followed the fictional presidency of Democrat Josiah “Jed” Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, and the lives of his dedicated staffers.
We all know fictional US presidents are better than real ones and here is one politician we can all get behind – smart, funny, educated, devoted to serving his country and making the world a better place. Jed Bartlett is the leader of the free world we’d all like to see.
The show is also beautifully, and sharply written, largely by Aaron Sorkin.
And for an outsider to the US, The West Wing was also very educational. What the heck is Super Tuesday? How do the Primaries work? How does the president appoint a Supreme Court Justice? What’s the power structure amongst staff in the White House really like? What does the Press Secretary do and how do lobbyists help draft policy?
Every season of The West Wing is currently streaming on Stan here in Australia. Being somewhat old school, I own every episode on DVD and whenever I’m feeling miserable about the current state of US politics, I find diving back into the Bartlett White House very comforting.
Which brings me to American politics in 2020. I’m sure it’s no secret my own personal politics lie fairly well left of centre. I cried tears of joy to see Barack Obama sworn into office in 2009. And I cried tears of sadness for three days straight in November 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election to the current president, who I will not name in this blog.
I believe America, as a nation, is a good idea. It was founded on principles and truths that we should all “hold to be self-evident”. That all men are created equal; that government is a “social contract” between citizens and their rulers; and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.
Despite all the division and unrest we see in the US right now, I believe it can change and once again be a world leader that we’re all happy to work with. Maybe they need to take some advice from the fictional White House we all loved in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s: “Every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that capacity may well be limitless.”
I’ll leave you with another quote from The West Wing. And one from the 44th President of the United States.
“We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.” – President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett
“Yes, we can.” – President Barack Obama