Political fascination all one-way 


MOVE over Michelle Grattan, Laurie Oakes and all you other stale political journalists in Australia because there is a new commentator coming Down Under.

Her name is Kristen Neel and her insights into the Australian zeitgeist are profound: "I'm moving to Australia, because their president is a Christian and actually supports what he says," the 18-year-old tweeted after Barack Obama was re-elected.

Now I'm not into throwing stones (mostly because I have weedy arms and couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat) but that's three pretty big mistakes in one sentence - four if you think our female atheist Prime Minister doesn't support what she says.

Poor Kristen had to delete her Twitter account after being ridiculed for her lack of knowledge on the Australian political landscape, but should we expect a Georgian teenager to know about our political leaders?

After all, Americans are just not as absorbed in our democratic machinations as Australians are in the US.

That absorption reached a glittering red, white and blue climax this week with the presidential race.

I'm interested in the US election as a snapshot of America's world view: the east and west coasts are liberal and vote Democrat but the mid-west and south are conservative and vote Republican.

This big-city liberalism versus small- county conservatism also plays out state by state, where counties in places such as Nevada vote Republican but cities vote Democrat.

It's also a study in political tactics, which our own increasingly presidential-style campaigns mirror, where the swing states are given more attention by the candidates and the certainties for both sides are left alone.

Obama won fairly comfortably in the end, even if the result was closer than 2008 and many counties swung to the right.

Apart from trying to make sense of the electoral college system, where states are allocated a number of votes based on size, what confused me most was the level of emotion some Australians had invested in Obama's win.

America policy impacts Australia, of course, but people throwing their arms in the air or taking to social media to chant, "four more years" is bizarre to me.

I was reminded of Mark Latham's famous "conga line of suckholes" comments about Liberal MPs' sycophantic behaviour towards Republican President George W Bush.

I can understand why people were pleased Obama won. He presented a more consistent vision while Mitt Romney oscillated on various key issues such as taxation, foreign policy and immigration.

Would a Republican victory have changed your day-to-day life? Hardly.

The people who so warmly welcomed Obama's victory would probably be the same who deride the visit from Prince Charles as irrelevant and anachronistic to our daily lives.

At least Charlie's the future head of state of Australia.

What does Kristen think about constitutional monarchies? That's a column for another day.


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