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- 237. Travels in Asia Minor – Cappadocia, Turkey
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Category Archives: politics
“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.
How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.
I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.
That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.
My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.
A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).
My love affair with America had begun.
Because by the time the October New England leaves lie buried under fresh January snows, the new course of our free world will have been decided.
And after months of Primaries, Conventions and Rallies — the millions of words from Hillary, Barack and McCain, and thousands of column inches on Sarah, Joe and even Joe the Plumber — how, exactly, will America elect her new President?
We’ve heard about the battleground states — the races for Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. But surely, every vote counts, right across the country?
And this is how it works.
* * * * *
On November 4, we Americans will be voting for a new president in no less than 51 separate elections — one in each state and the District of Columbia.
On that day we won’t elect the new president, though; that won’t happen until December 15, when the electors, chosen in the primaries and by state party meetings, gather in their respective state capitals to cast their votes.
And the president won’t count as duly elected until those electoral votes are counted in Congress on January 6.
In a nutshell, those three stages define how our Electoral College works.
There hasn’t been much time to write. This isn’t a site for daily updates – the past twelve months at Roads of Stone have seen just 28 posts.
Still, that adds up to around 20,000 words, squeezed into odd moments here and there, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve been busy.
Those words have extended to travel writing on Kenya (seven posts), Scotland, Texas, Bermuda and France.
Conversations have extended to cover geology, music, golf, UK and US politics, the history of horseracing and Shakespearean theatre, petroleum economics, global warming, the urban development of London and French cooking.
After a titanic struggle, the young pretender had seen off the hot favourite. Now only destiny and history awaited.
The crucible of battle beckoned – a chance to banish the incumbent powers through destroying the old master.
And no, I’m not talking about the US Open tennis, even if for just for one moment in the second set it looked like Andy Murray might almost have the game to beat Roger Federer, just as he had swept away Rafael Nadal.
It was the American party conventions and the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain which intrigued. After glowing coverage of the Democratic bash in Denver, the Republican affair attracted little comment here initially.
Flicking the channels for a glimpse of Flushing Meadows last week, I came across a speech by Fred Thompson. The Senator’s deadpan style might almost have been compared by The Guardian to the dullest and most plodding rhetoric offered by our own Gordon Brown, but Thompson gave it a passable attempt.
The speech set out John McCain’s credentials, recalling his suffering and extraordinary courage during the Vietnam war. McCain was a principled and dignified statesman, he said, willing to stand up for what was right, and to fight the establishment machine. Willing to take risks in support of his beliefs.
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cos it’s the one we’ll never know
– The Jam: A Town Called Malice, 1982
Gritty urban realism. Recession.
That’s how it was then, and this is how it sounded. The Jam captured the mood of Britain at the start of the eighties. The loss of hope and the mindlessly brutal banality of an existence with no glimpse of economic rescue or absolution.
“Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America,” said Barack Obama in St Paul, Minnesota, earlier this week.
He had taken the stage for his Democratic nomination victory speech to the sounds of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’.
It was a grateful message, for a domestic audience, at the end of a bruising and extended primary campaign. And this November, let’s hope for a better day, not just for America, but far beyond as well.