Melbourne, AUSTRALIA – It's been a campaign season of teenage pregnancies,
Oprah, a plumber named Joe (who isn’t even a plumber), dancing competitions on
Ellen, beige pantsuits, Colin Powell crossing-but-not-really-crossing the floor,
a pro-drilling beauty queen, fundamentalist Christian rants and hefty haute
Some people like watching cricket or tennis, but to me, American politics is the
very best kind of spectator sport.
Numerous fascinating parallels can be drawn between Australia and America, and
on behalf of the politically apathetic Antipodes, I must say, the United States
sure knows how to mix business with pleasure.
Personal lives, characters and familial relations are all put on the line for a
vote, and in a war of words, there’s a preordained quota of sound-bites for any
And then came Hurricane Palin. A fake-tanned spitfire with more sap than sass,
the gun-toting Alaskan governor initially injected some much-needed “pah-zazz”
to Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign.
There was the boost in the popularity polls, with some commentators proclaiming
Palin as a major drawing card for straggling Hillary Clinton supporters – as if
to suggest that a common wardrobe allows for major policy differences to be
completely skirted over, pardon the pun.
The Democrats couldn’t touch her without being labeled sexist, and unable to
play hardball, Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden were walking on
Meanwhile, Palin herself was enjoying the heads-up, as Obama’s supposed lenient
stance on terrorism and Russia were defiled by the vice-presidential nominee
with fervent ferocity. If only her aim had been as accurate as it was when she
downed that Alaskan moose – the remarks proved costly, with more bark than bite
from the ‘pitbull.’
Before long, the honeymoon was over, and thanks in part to the deft comedic
stylings of Tina Fey, Palin’s true right-wing potential was uncomfortably
Her attacks on the ‘Washington elite’ media set proved foolish, as her selective
televised interviews providing adequate fodder for public relations attacks, and
despite allusions to her being assorted livestock with make-up (dogs, pigs, the
whole barn…), Palin couldn’t keep up the momentum.
McCain, meanwhile, was lingering in the shadows of his controversial
running-mate, and failing to connect. Debates with Obama illustrated his
inability to persuasively represent his own policies, as the most recent
encounter between the two revealed the Democratic nominee’s most used work as
‘think,’ and his Republican counterpart’s as ‘Obama.’
The essential sentiment of each campaign was effectively epitomized by the
verbal trends – Obama’s pro-change slogans are striking a chord, whilst McCain
languishes behind unsubstantiated personal critiques.
Blinkered and exceedingly outdone by his finessed rival, McCain’s campaign has
also been hampered by the metaphorical elephant in the room – the form of cancer
the aging candidate had has a high rate of relapse and short-term recovery
period, so in effect, a vote for McCain really could make the first female
And citing Russia as an antagonistic neighbor, it seems Palin might be too much
Cold War iron maiden for the moderate majority.
So, all that remains is for Obama to convert Virginia and his popularity polls
into electoral votes, and cartoonists of the world will have a new plaything.
Forget relevant policies and sound political insight – I swear the best
endorsement a candidate can receive is the Oprah vote.