Divided by a common politics

It is a pity to miss Americans in these places, but they do not fit in as others do.  A televised political discussion in Britain, Australia, Canada, Ireland or New Zealand is the same in format, and commentators and politicians from any of the other of those lands can fit in seamlessly, and they do.  On the BBC’s Question Time last week, Malcolm Turnbull, a former Prime Minister of Australia could join in on equal terms, just as last year had Jordan Peterson and Stephen Pinker from Canada, and Irish politicians appear in discussions all the time. Commentators, philosophers and politicians can pop up all across the Old Commonwealth without our batting an eyelid. It quite normal. We speak the same language politically.  Tony Abbott (who ousted Turnbull) put it that “we are yes juridically separate entities but we are not really foreign to each other”.

American commentators do not fit the same way. They are welcomed and treated respectfully and can provide insight, but the alien political culture shows through at once.  We have the same human language but a different political language. We have the same understanding that we must have freedom and participatory democracy, but think of both in different ays. We ought to know each other better.

Joe Biden may be a good bridge – he liberally borrows from British politicians: on his first run for President he famously plagiarised a speech from Neil Kinnock, and accepting the Presidency yesterday he copied one of Margaret Thatcher’s; a knowing tribute. His campaign used a slogan from Boris Johnson; ‘Build Back Better’. It is less credible to think of an American politician copying from, say, Adenauer or De Gaulle, even if he has a certain idea of America. There is still then the spirit of the Anglosphere’s common frames of reference there.

We in the Commonwealth think we know American politics and thought because they are blasted at us constantly, but we hear them as part of showbusiness, not with an appreciation of the dynamics. A Parliamentary system is more fluid than a presidential one. American politicians appeal to the Constitution as an anchor or central point about which to revolve, which is not available in the British context. The vast geography and federal system of America is a point of differing starting points too, as is the ever-present legacy of the brutal plantations of past age.

All this needs further examination.

I wonder often how much our local political preconceptions mislead any aspiring commentator when looking at the politics of another land, and can only conclude that it is far more than we could ever imagine. At least the Anglosphere starts from the same culture. Foreign lands will remain a misunderstanding, and we for them.

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Author: LittleHobb

Solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short

One thought on “Divided by a common politics”

  1. philosophers and politicians can pop up all across the Old Commonwealth without our batting an eyelid

    When was the last time we had a politicians from other commonwealth countries such as Bagladesh, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, or Pakistan on Mentorn's "Question Time"? India has a higher GDP than the UK so is obviously a more important country.

    When discussing the Commonwealth you are fixated on white majority countries for some reason.

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