Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The race for the US presidency

Overseas readers, and particularly Americans, might be interested to know how the current presidential campaign is being perceived here in Ireland.

This is soon told. RTÉ radio 1 and Newstalk 106, the two main ‘talkie’ stations in the Dublin area, have been religiously providing their listeners with all the latest news and in-depth analysis of the primaries, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Super Tuesday with breathless anticipation.

Melancholicus has noted one thing in particular about Irish coverage of American politics: the Irish are almost universally a race of Democrats. This of course is an age-old position, going back at least as far as the days of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, if not before. The political preferences of Irish communities in the United States seems to be mirrored exactly on the home sod. Witness the difference in the popular reception of visiting US presidents according as to whether they were Republicans or Democrats. When Bill Clinton visited Ireland in 1995, he was accorded the warmest of welcomes, with vast and appreciative crowds turning out to see him wherever he went. Ronald Reagan did not attract anything like similar numbers in 1984, but he did attract left-wing protesters hostile to US foreign policy in Latin America. When George W. Bush visited Ireland in 2004, he was greeted by a tiny crowd, most of whom had turned out to agitate, heckle and protest—as the reader must surely have expected.

Nobody on the Republican side has attracted much following in Ireland. Giuliani has been mentioned once or twice. There has also been plenty of media snickering at the religious beliefs of certain Republican candidates (Romney and Huckabee particularly). Contrary to popular foreign perception, ‘Holy Catholic Ireland’ is nothing of the sort. Melancholicus’ patria is a rigidly secular land. The Ireland of today is a staunchly anti-religious and even anti-Catholic country. Should Benedict XVI visit Ireland (as has been threatened), he is sure to receive a grand reception, but hardly on the same scale as John Paul II in 1979 (to date the only papal visit to this country). The so-called ‘religious right’ in the USA has no sympathy in Ireland.

Although John McCain’s name has been dropped on a few occasions, all the Irish news coverage at the time of writing concerns Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and the excitement of the contest between these two for the Democratic nomination. Most Irish people seem to support either one or the other. In tune with liberal notions of gender and race, many are excited by the possibility that this campaign will yield either the first black or first female US president, as if such superficialities were the only thing that counts.

Not being either American or resident in the US, Melancholicus has no vested interest one way or the other. The Republicans do not in his estimation deserve to retain the White House, but on the other hand the Democrats are a crew of pro-gay, anti-life liberal ideologues. I suppose it matters little whether Tiberius Caesar is succeeded by Caligula, Nero, or Domitian; the effect in each case will be much the same.

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