Friday, 21 November 2008

Why I like Tucker and why he's wrong

Most British politics followers will not be familiar with Tucker Carlson. He's an off-the-charts conservative pundit who works for MSNBC and writes for various magazines including Esquire and The Weekly Standard. He also used to have his own show, Tucker, which was my compulsory lunch time viewing.

I like MSNBC a lot. It gets a lot of criticism for being partisan and for being 'in the tank' for Obama during the election. Much of that criticism was unfair. Tucker had his own show, as did, and does, former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, and they balanced out the liberal anchors such as Keith Olbermann and the wonderful Rachel Maddow.

But Tucker couldn't find an audience and his show was axed. That's a real shame.

Tucker was wrong about almost everything. On the one small shred of common ground between me and the Republican party -- that America should be an internationalist country -- we even disagreed. But I really enjoy his analysis, his humour, his back and forth with guests and his willingness to be polite and friendly to those which whom he disagreed. It is a really pity MSNBC axed his show and I hope he finds an outlet on TV for his punditry soon.

Turning to specifics I wanted to refer to a recent interview Mr Carlson gave (see below for clip). He was asked for his thoughts on Obama's election and said he was disappointed in the media coverage of the victory because it implied that if McCain had won America would have been a less good country.

Yep, it often did imply that. And it would have been true. It's a shame that none of the other guests on the show pointed out why. Not because America needed to elect a black man to the presidency in order to assuage its guilt for past crimes, but because if McCain had won it would only have been because Obama was black and he, McCain very wasn't.

McCain was supposed not to win. The Bush factor, the war in Iraq, the desire for change, the need for health care reform, economic crisis. If McCain had won even with all of those handicaps there would only have been one reason.

That is not to say, as Tucker implies we are trying to say, that everyone who voted for McCain did so because they didn't want a black man in the White House. But taken as a whole, if America had voted for McCain this year it would have proved something about America that we desperately wanted them not to prove.

So, wrong again, Tucker. But keep it up! My lunch times really aren't the same without you anymore.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Marriage of convenience

It was an historic occasion

Millions of people, from myriad backgrounds, came together to cast a decisive vote. A chance, as they saw it, to make amends for the mistakes of the past. The time to demonstrate that America was a country where no one should be afraid to stand up for their inalienable right.

The right to discriminate against people who are different.

Thus it was that Californians shamed themselves and their state by voting through proposition 8, removing the right of their fellow citizens to marry the ones they love. The Arizonans and the Floridians passed similar bans, but there are two reasons to be particularly disappointed with the Golden state.

Firstly, and it may sound puerile to say so, California should know better. With a thriving, diverse population and a tradition of being left of America’s political centre the state is an obvious place for tolerance to thrive. In condemning the state one should be careful – many great people and organisations campaigned tirelessly to prevent the ballot initiative from being passed, including the state’s (Republican) governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the usually politically quiet Google. Nonetheless a coalition of the intolerant came together, spread lies about the effects of allowing gay marriage to continue in the state and succeeded in their aims. It is particularly demoralising to see that, just as they united to vote for an inspiring candidate to overcome racial prejudice, black voters voted overwhelmingly to reinforce prejudice on another minority group.

Secondly the ballot initiative in California was different from that elsewhere. Gay marriage was legal in California until the day of the election. Only in California did voters have the option of removing an existing right. It was hoped that by expressing the initiative as one that took away rights from the state's citizens it would be less likely to succeed. It was not to be.

There are hopes that California's supreme court will strike down the initiative, or at the very least existing married couples will be spared the indignity of having their marriage stripped away by the state. Nonetheless, it is critical to remember that as America set an inspiring example to the world, it also showed just how far is left until the tenants of American democracy; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are truly realised.