I was pretty amazed when the American political system allowed a black man into the White House, especially after the shameless way it kept Al Gore out. I wondered whether it was tokenism; maybe it was about time America showed the world how liberal it can be by having a woman or black man as President. America is, after all, regarded as the most endemically conservative of the ‘free world democracies.’ I wondered whether it had simply gone too far in showing its hand with the Al Gore scandal, and couldn’t afford to do so again so soon. I wondered whether it knew there were bad economic times coming and needed a scapegoat, somebody of whom it could be said ‘this man is dividing America’ at a time when any policy would be more likely than usual to divide opinion. I even wondered whether I was being unduly cynical.
But now I’m wondering again. Now we have the spectacle of two delegates at the Republican Convention throwing nuts at a black CNN reporter, apparently calling out ‘this is how we feed animals.’ The party disassociated itself from their actions, of course. It had the offenders ejected, thereby giving itself the opportunity to say ‘we regard their behaviour as deplorable.’ So now the world knows that the Republican Party is not as institutionally racist as we suspect it is.
America has a long arm which it wraps covetously around the world, so its politics are everybody’s business. And that’s why I feel entitled to wonder.