22 August 2012
Here in Australia there's a lot of interest in US politics. And I've encountered a handful of Aussies who are more passionate about US politics than their own. But what's behind this fascination? And practically speaking, what implications could the upcoming election have on issues that matter to Australians? To answer these questions, Election Watch is asking academics, policymakers and members of the media to share their thoughts on the US elections and what's at stake for the global community.
First up is Sam Roggeveen. Roggeveen is a fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy and editor of their blog 'The Interpreter.' He previously served as a senior strategic analyst for the Office of National Assessments and has written extensively on US and Australian politics. Here's his take.
Does the US presidential election matter for Australia? The level of coverage in our media suggests it matters a great deal. Even the commercial TV networks will watch the campaign closely in its closing weeks, and they’re not known for their deep interest in foreign events, unless sport is involved.
If you wanted to be narrowly utilitarian about it, this makes no sense at all. If our yardstick is the influence foreign countries have on Australia’s prosperity and security, then Japan, China and perhaps Indonesia should expect equal attention. Yet how many Australians could even name the leaders of those three countries?
Maybe Australian interest in the US election is better understood as a cultural event. It is presented in the media not so much as a contest of ideas or policy but as a human drama showcasing America’s grandeur, heroism, venality and vulgarity, all on a massive scale. Leonard Cohen said it best:
It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and the worst
It’s here they got the range and the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken and it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open in a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA.
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