Monday, August 17, 2015


Every country is cursed by some event or fair which seems to attract the obese and the conservative minded. A mix of bad food and creepy amusements brings together the same type of crowds everywhere.  

In America, Iowa is the summer capital of this form of collegial bad taste.  It is also the first shot for presidential candidates who, for the most part, dread this gastronomical Gotterdammerung.  A few fit in (Huckabee and sorts), most make it short (Clinton, Bush),  while one makes the most of it (Trump...who else?)

This fair is not "innocent."  It looks like democracy at its worse but it might well be democracy at its best.  It is anti-elitist and non-sophisticated but it gives a voice to the discontented who claim ownership of their votes and who would be snubbed in normal circumstances.  Many candidates will have to undergo again next winter the "caucus water-boarding" and try to connect with an America of hard work and values, most of which are elsewhere disposed of in the graveyards of forgotten causes (religion/same sex outrage/pro-life). 

Until now, the various candidates muster more curiosity, ennui, and deja vu, than commitment. Only Bernie Sanders has been able to mobilize a left-wing fringe which is genuine. Others are predictable or just mildly palpable. Trump is an American remake of  Silvio Berlusconi. Bush looks and sounds as if he were the victim of some Oedipal curse. Hillary Clinton acts like some Chinese grave-sweeper, trying to clear her name or bury her sophisms.  Carly Fiorina is working on some form of Republican Joan of Arc redux.  Dr. Carson would actually be more interesting if he left God to the other chosen ones:  Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and similar religious zealots. Marco Rubio tries very hard to be the new young face for Republicanism and is a persuasive campaigner.  Nevertheless, he pushes the age factor to such an extreme that he might soon be relegated to some youth camp.

The campaign is actually stalled like the infamous Governor Christie's bridge, where too many try to get ahead while only end up being in each other's way. Nobody shines, nothing interesting is said, suggested or debated.  In these Putin times, with Chinese uncertainties, Middle Eastern alarm bells, Jules Verne-type cyber and drone scenarios, the political discourse remains largely parochial. When it is not, as in Trump's case, it reaches the climax of the absurd.  The offerings are so mediocre that more names keep popping up:  Vice-President Biden, Al Gore (the one of the climate !), Governor Romney (the better but improbable outcome).

Obama has retreated into his inertia mode before the autumn slaughter fest. Meanwhile the unraveling of deals (Iran, trade, the Paris climate conference, monetary transparency) might accelerate after the melting Iowa butter cow leaves the ground even more slippery than before!

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