Dudley Moore once explained American politics rather succinctly: "The Americans, like us in England, have a two-party system. They have the Republican party, which is like our Conservative party, and they have the Democratic party, which is like our Conservative party."
All those vaguely on the left of the political spectrum may be hoping Barack Obama is going to be radical, leftish, exciting, new... I'm not so sure. At the very least, they conclude, he can't be any worse than George W Bush. I'm not so sure of that either, though I hope he isn't, of course. For Obama was not elected on a promise to be radical. He has never pretended during campaigning to be a socialist nor an extremely liberal man; therefore there is no reason to suppose that he will make a sudden transformation when he comes into office this week.
The legacy of Bush continues - war, death, economic disaster and growing inequality both at home and abroad. Idiots like Julie Burchill may conclude he was actually the most fantastic human being alive because he gave a shit about Aids in Africa, but they're reprehensible scum who should be buzzsawed to death for the sheer mendacity of their nonsense. Yes, Bush gave a shit - that's what you're supposed to do. What sort of fucked-up world are we in where you have to praise someone for having basic humanity, as if it's a big deal and a wonderful surprise?
Let's have another gentle reminder of Bush the humanitarian:
One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. “I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,” [one] eventually said.
They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists.
That's something to be proud of, isn't it? Unfortunately for them, Binyam Mohamed's torturers were unable to get him to confess to a non-existent plot, even despite their best efforts, so there is hope that he may finally be heading home.
But will Obama close Guantanamo and end extraordinary rendition? Will there be no waterboarding under this new president? Given that he claims his priority is the economy, is he still prepared to waste billions of tax dollars on war and torture? People may have hopes that a new era is beginning; I'd love for it to be so. But as we shouldn't forget the crimes of Bush, that snivelling coward who couldn't be bothered to do anything for poor black people in New Orleans but rushed to the scene when it was rich whites in California, who made the rich richer and increased inequality by scrapping inheritance tax, who blocked stem-cell research because of the right to life of foetuses but had no problem with ending the lives of real Arabs in war or prisoners in Texas, let's not assume things can only get better. We made that mistake on May 1, 1997.