As 2012 slowly shakes off 2011 and starts to evolve into it's own fully formed year, it's probably worth taking note of what will be one of this year's defining events: the 2012 US Presidential Election.
Well, you may as well take note of it, as it will be impossible to avoid it.
With the global obsession with American culture showing no signs of flagging, and poltiical candidates showing an ever greater reliance on social media and the internet, the US election is now something that goes far beyond battleground states like Ohio and Florida. It's now everywhere and anywhere, an enormously expensive, theatrical game of high stakes poker played out by power suited men and women who have decided that this is the year to chance their arm and try for the top job. It's a bit like the 'West Wing' really, although without all the robust policy debate, and a bit like a reality TV show, although without the really ace prizes.
And, as such, it's totally captivating. Certainly much more so than our locally produced version of the same thing, which seems to be composed entirely of two dour, thoroughly unlikeable gits telling an indifferent public how much they hate everything.
But the Yanks infuse their election cycle with a large degree of splash and showmanship, so as to try and keep people's attention. Which is probably needed, as their election campaign runs on much longer than you would think is necessary. It is now January, with the election set for November 7, and the Republican candidates have been at it, and each other, for about 3 months. Longer if you factor in the time they spend fund raising and organising before the politickin' actually begins.
But before we get down to any sort of serious analysis of how the US election may unfold this year, it's probably worth highlighting another prominent feature of politics in the states.
That's right, things always get a little nutty, a little fruity and a little weird on the campaign trail in America. This can come from the candidates themselves or the public, but the light hearted, high spirited, loopy fru fru spirit is never far from the surface in any Presidential campaign.
In the recently concluded Republican Primary in New Hampshire (won by front runner Mitt Romney), second place fell to veteran congressman Ron Paul, from Texas. Known as something of a maverick and an outsider, Paul has campaigned on a platform of aggressive individual rights and the fundamental destruction of the apparatus of modern American Government. His second placing was something of a surprise, considering the radical nature of his policies, but even more surprising was his choice of theme music at his celebratory after party:
Very few, if any, political candidates had thought to employ the Imperial Theme from Star Wars on their side before.
On the other side of the aisle, President Obama is set to face an uphill battle for re-election, with a struggling economy and high unemployment reflected in his lowly approval rating. With the figures as they are at this moment, no US President has been re-elected with such low poll numbers or with so many people out of work.
Nevertheless, Barack's formidable fund raising and campaigning skills mean he cannot be discounted. Doubly so while his opponents are flirting with nominating Darth Vader as their candidate. Also worth considering is the fervent personal following Obama inspires in people, which manifest itself in many different ways:
The bloke that posted this, 'barackdubs,' has got a million of these!
Roll on 2012!