A slightly bizarre article by Polish born American Henryk A. Kowalczyk (not the PiS MP) ponders: which foreigner would be best suited to become US president?
He thinks either Tony Blair or ex-finance minister and early-1990s “Mr. Shock” therapist Leszek Balcerowicz would be good choices...bizarrely.
He starts off claiming some similarity of Polish kings to US presidents. The similarities being - firstly the kings, like presidents, were elected (though the electorate was rather small in the case of Poland) and that the end results of the ballot could be a little messy.
Slightly tenuous link, Henryk, but never mind.
But his main point is that foreigners could be elected as kings of Poland - several were. But in US elections every one in six living in the US are not eligible for the top job. Maybe that is why the usual calibre of entrants is so poor?
So he comes up with a few names who would be good as foreign presidents. UK ex-prime minister Blair he chooses because - bizarrely - he:
…is already deeply involved in the Middle Eastern mess, and he was clever enough to have already started pulling British forces from Iraq. This indicates that, as president, he would get us out of Iraq as soon as achievable, and with as little humiliation as possible.
Blair reformed UK immigration policy by managing increased legal immigration and keeping illegal immigration at about 0.7 percent of the population (compared with at least 4 percent in the U.S.). We need someone who can do the same here. Additionally, Blair worked on reforming the government-run National Health Service by promoting the increased role of the private sector. In the United States, we might need some government involvement in reforming our privately run health care system. Blair sounds like the most qualified man for this job.
So Blair should be US president for his record on Iraq, immigration and the health service!? I don’t think you would get a single British person anywhere to agree on all three…or even one or two, of those.
And Balcerowicz? US president? Yup!
His "shock therapy" converted the completely disintegrated Polish economy of the socialist era into a halfway decent market-driven system. Balcerowicz grew up and received his education in a socialist country, but gradually matured to understand and value the benefits of the free market.
On a side note: I wonder which Polish king George W. Bush would fancy himself as? Probably Jan Sobieski (1674-1696), who won - helped win - the Battle of Vienna (an event the city of Krakow is celebrating this weekend) which “saved Europe” from the evil Turkish/Islamic empire. But maybe readers can come up with other monarchical role models for Poland’s King George W. the First. Poniatiowski? Nah…
Two tribes go to war
The electability of a foreigner in the US would be dependant on how he or she could come to be seen as part of the correct lifestyle tribe. These days, elections are not really about policy at all. This election is as much about lifestyle as politics.
Recent research shows that Americans are increasingly choosing the location of where they live on the basis of their political allegiance - Red or Blue. There are now almost consciously created Democrat zones and Republican parts of town.
Each sees the other group as if they came from Mars or Venus. Do you eat organic or spend Sunday morning at the Evangelical church? Do you prefer cats as pets (then you are a Democrat) or are you more likely to own a dog (then welcome to the GOP). The Economist writes:
Over time, this means Americans are ever less exposed to contrary views. In a book called “Hearing the Other Side”, Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania crunched survey data from 12 countries and found that Americans were the least likely of all to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them.
Lifestyle as a definition of ‘politics’ could be seen by the nomination of Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice-presidential candidate, and the so-called ‘liberal’ reaction that came after.
Palin, though a pro-life, gun owning, God fearing Good Conservative, was conspicuously quiet on these issues in her acceptance speech. She seemed to be going out of the way not to say anything too political. She didn’t need to preach to the converted on those issues in the Republican electoral base. And she didn’t want to scare away too many of Hilary Clinton’s disaffected female supporters. This was the Republican version of ’identity politics’: “Vote for me…I am woman!”
And the liberal reaction to her shock candidature was anything but political. This was a middle class elite showing its disgust for her and her lifestyle. She is a gun-toting, hockey-mom redneck; she dared have a child in early middle age!! She returned to work after only a few days after giving birth…!
And remember - these are not conservative critics , they are the Huffington-ites of this world.
So could a foreigner immediately identify, and be identified, with one of these tribes? Blair? He maybe is a ‘liberal’ and is at ease with the Clinton tribe. But he is also a war-monger and supporter of the neo-con project of bombing democracy into the Middle East and elsewhere.
Maybe Balcerowicz would understand a little easier. There are some similarities between Poland and the US in this regard. Poles have always thought tribally - most urbanites have little in common with small town or rural folk. They vote differently on that basis. The Kaczynskis, despite being from Warsaw and qualified lawyers, like to make a show of their ordinariness, their non-cosmopolitan-ness - Jaroslaw’s favourite food is not oyster but scrambled eggs. Both twins like to make it known that they are not too keen on foreign travel - much as Sarah Palin has done.
However, in Poland, things are different. There is not the physical separation of the different tribes. Communist housing policy mixed everyone up. New areas are emerging and transforming, but the majority still live all jumbled up together.
And anyway, Poland is a thousand tribes, and the US just two, with a few sub-tribes thrown in for good measure. It maybe is easier to rule a country with a social complexion of just two lifestyle groups, but the presidential elections are precious little to do with politics and a whole lot more about snobbery - inverted or otherwise. This is one development that Poland should not import. We may as well go back to Poland's feudal kings.