Primaries and caucuses – the quaint but strange rituals of American politics, are now well underway and where 100,000 is seen as a ‘big turnout’. The Democratic race to find a presidential candidate is one of personality over policy, style over substance – but the issues in the Republican race will be a little more familiar to conservative Poles.
And they should be interested in the winners who will emerge to fight the election in November: the US is still, at present, the only super power in town.
There is the issue of visa waving for Poles wanting to travel to the US; there is the status of the many Poles in the US who are there illegally; and there is also the Polish troops, part of US-led occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. What goes on in Washington should be of keen interest in Warsaw.
So what is there to get interested in? Though American political culture has yet to reach the zombied state that British politics is currently staggering around in – politics, in any meaningful sense, has simply died in my home country – US politics is in a pretty sad and vacuous condition. Take the three main Democratic candidates. The difference between Obama, Clinton and Edwards on policy is paper thin. In fact, the difference between the Democratic candidates and the Bush administration is not really that wide. Clinton, certainly, is almost as hawkish as Big Dick Cheney, for instance. Clinton the demo-con!
I would say that Barack Obama is the closest to most urban, ‘liberal’ Poles, as far as the issues are concerned. He did not support the invasion in Iraq – neither did a majority of Poles. And when President Kaczynski was in Washington last year Obama made a speech that included the following:
"The Bush Administration's policy of splitting Europe into "old" and "new" was not just wrong, it was counterproductive. Poland should not have to choose between its vital interest in closer integration with Europe and its alliance with the United States. America must repair its relationship with Europe as a whole, so that Poland and our other Central European allies are never put in that position again."
[…} We [the US and Poland] also share an interest in working with Russia to meet common security threats and to encourage Russia's integration into Western institutions. But we should also embrace, not abandon, those in Russia working to preserve their hard won liberty, and draw clear lines against Russia's intimidation of its neighbors. 21st Century Europe cannot be divided into 19th Century spheres of influence."
[…] If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should - but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment. The Bush Administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes. The Bush Administration has also done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them. We must not allow this issue to divide "new Europe" and "old Europe," as the Bush Administration tried to do over Iraq."
[…] Invite Poland to join the Visa Waiver Program. We should work to include countries like Poland that are members of both the EU and NATO into the Visa Waiver Program. Today's visa regime reflects neither the current strategic relationship nor the close historic bonds between our peoples, and is out of date."
The points about Russia, the missile defense system and visas chime with the new Civic Platform government – in fact they could almost have been written by Donald Tusk’s speech writers.
So for Civic Platform voters, Obama’s your man. But what of the more conservative Pole? Which candidate in the Republican race should they plump for?
Huckabee – the American Kaczynski?
The Republican candidates are split between small state, fiscal conservatives and the not so small state, social conservatives. This reflects the two parts of the Republican base – richer voters who want less tax and a smaller state made a priority, and are not so interested, or are even relatively liberal, on social issues; and poorer voters who are pro-life, anti-abortion but are not so interested in tax cuts that would not benefit them, particularly.
So on the coastal states, the fiscal conservatives will do better – Giuliani, Romney, McCain; in the poorer southern states and elsewhere then Mike Huckabee, the Kevin Spacey lookalike, has emerged as an obvious choice for the religious right.
Huckabee is certainly the candidate that many PiS voters would choose. He is the southern Baptist minister, God fearing, pro-lifer. Like the Kaczynski brothers he opposes same-sex marriage. He is against gays openly serving in military (what about when they are all in the showers?). In 1992, Huckabee said that "homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk." That could have been written by one of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s speech writers. Like Kaczynski, he supports the death penalty.
Economically, Huckabee seems to support a progressive type of tax (based on consumption rates) and while governor of Arkansas he actually increased the tax burden and state spending. He is also, like Kaczynski, rather clueless about foreign affairs.
All and all, an ideal candidate for the PiS voter and Christian nationalists.
So the ideal would be a Obama, Huckabee contest in November. What we are probably going to get is John McCain – a little gentler than some on immigration, but chiefly known as Mr Surge after he walked down Baghdad high street with a security posse the size of a small army, declaring Iraq ‘safe’ – versus Clinton. These are the establishment candidates on both sides, which means the much trumpeted ‘change, change, change’ will not be coming to American politics anytime soon.