Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain and Abel

SECOND FLOOR - It was supposed to be a ground-breaking campaign; one that would discard with Washington's dirty and dark politics-as-usual and redraw the lines (and rules of engagement).

It was historic, all right, in the sense that we had the first woman with a realistic chance of becoming the first female President of the United States, only for her to be upstaged by the first black man with a realistic chance of being the first Black occupant of the White House, only for him, albeit temporarily, to be upstaged by the first pig with lipstick to have a realistic chance of being No2 at 1600 Penn Ave.

As Senators Barack Obama and John McCain head to the last stretch of their campaign, it looks as though, to borrow a European cliche, America has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from its political past.

Far from the issues-based campaign it was meant to be, the race has been a business-as-usual affair of mudslinging, smearing and scaremongering. Obama has been cast as a Muslim (like that's a bad thing!), a terrorist supporter, a flipper headed for a flop, and all sorts of nasty names. The Democrats have not been entirely clean either, labelling McCain's policies as a continuation of those of the ill-fated G.W. Bush, ignoring the several issues on which the Senator voted against the President.

Even the few issues that emerged have changed faster than you can say Capitol Hill. First the campaign was supposed to revolve around foreign policy and the war in Iraq. Then, as the first signs of the credit crunch appeared, it turned to local economic issues, only for it to swing back to foreign policy when Russia and Georgia went to war. Now, at the final bend, it is the economy, stupid, and it has left McCain looking, ah, stupid.

Of course our own elections in Uganda are rarely about issues and more about primitive symbols of power (Essanja, cotter pin, hammer, olubengo, etc) so we are not any better than the Americans. The only difference is that we never claim to have an issues-based campaign; whoever breaks more skulls and stuffs more ballot boxes wins. Our system is simple, shallow, and stupid -- but so is America's!