[Previously by Martin Kelly: Ireland: Though All The World (Specifically, The Irish PM) Betray Thee.]
To a British citizen, one of the recent U.S. Presidential election's most interesting aspects has been the staggering lack of shame with which foreigners have sought to engage themselves in the USA's electoral processes.
Of course, all over the world, foreigners outside the US were passing extraordinarily effusive judgment on the American election:
But it wasn't only outside the US—there were also foreign nationals trying to influence the election in Obama's favour from outside and inside the country.
This pernicious lack of respect for the country they are permitted to live in or visit might stoke outrage in some, while causing others to shrug wearily. However, the extent to which the UK's own toytown Establishment liberals have not only been in the tank for Obama, but have also actively gone out of their way to lubricate his path to power with their rarely-broken sweat, has been remarkable.
Take the case of Denis McShane.
McShane (ne Matyjaszek) is the Labour Member of Parliament for the South Yorkshire constituency of Rotherham. All the indicators seem to show that Rotherham suffers from extreme levels of deprivation–when Dolly Parton is turning up to help improve literacy (this actually happened), and the poor level of the local diet attracts the condemnation of the celebrity chefs, a dispassionate observer might think that the local MP would have his work cut out.
However, in The Guardian of November 3, there was McShane boasting of how he had been on the stump for Obama "in the still warm and sunny battle-ground of Virginia". [What Britain can learn from the US |Campaigning for Barack Obama ahead of Tuesday's historic election, there are some valuable lessons for UK politicians](Late fall in Britain is pretty dreary.)
Any Virginian voters swayed by McShane's rather nasal tones might find the knowledge that some of his own constituents can neither read nor cook to be of some interest. Hopefully, some even dared tell him to get out of their country.
McShane is a former U.K. "Minister for Europe", a post known in some circles as Minister for the Abolition of Britain. He was also a founding member of the neoconservative cabal called "The Henry Jackson Society". What poor old Blighty has done to deserve its very own neoconservative cabal is anyone's guess. But that one of its founders should seek to muscle his way into what he thinks is history, while the poor all around him go unlettered, is just another illuminating insight into the neoconservative mindset. The poor man that a neoconservative deems worthy of his assistance is never the one he can see.
McShane's prancing round the still warm and sunny battle-ground of his imagination might be excusable if it could be shown to be the prattling of a lone crank; but it wasn't.
The Russian-born Anatole Kaletsky is one of the UK's more controversial economic pundits, once writing a column suggesting that Londoners should just sell their homes to bankers and clear off out. Stints at The Economist, The Financial Times and The Times are on his resume—a resume which shows that he has enjoyed the fruits of all that is good about the countries in which he has been permitted to live.
Yet on November 6, Kaletsky wrote in The Times that
"Mr. Obama managed to administer a death-blow to the Nixon-Reagan coalition by adding a powerful new weapon to the steady demographic change—the participation of young and ethnic-minority voters who had felt disenfranchised. Their commitment, which I saw with my own eyes last week when I visited Pennsylvania, where my daughter, brought up as a girl in America, was working with military efficiency for seven days a week and 16 hours a day in a tireless army of highly-qualified volunteers. With this new generation of voters now fully engaged in US politics, the balance of power is likely to shift in the 'culture wars'. "[The not-so-strange birth of liberal America]
Perhaps young Miss Kaletsky might be just another triumph of birthright citizenship, although her father implies not. But if she's not an American citizen, why is she interfering in American elections?
In comparison with Miss Kaletsky's sterling service in Obama's Barmy Army, the campaigning activities of the soon-to-be-ex Birmingham Mail reporter Adam Smith, aka "Steve Zacharanda", provide some light relief. [Youtube(language)][British journalist covering Barack Obama caught on camera in drunk, plagiarism rant, Times Online, November 7, 2008] But while "Zacharanda"'s drunken antics are amusing to watch, the point is that he "jumped on a plane" to "volunteer for the Barack Obama campaign" in South Beach, Miami, as part of an "International Brigade" which included Dutch, Swedish, German and British volunteers.
Yet the enthusiasm of these political titans for Obama has been mere idleness when compared with the industry shown on his behalf by a man who has inhabited the USA's most elite institutions for nearly 30 years, without ever taking US citizenship: the redoubtable Professor Simon Schama.
Arguably possessing the finest mind ever to come out of Southend-on-Sea, Schama is Professor of Art History and History at the University of Columbia. His real achievements are legion. One of the most outstanding historians of his generation, his almost unique ability to speak as fluently as he writes makes him a television natural; in the UK, he holds the status of "superdon," the kind of professor who's always on television.
Yet in the eyes of some admirers, Schama has debased these achievements by both the depth of his partisanship and his vocal ubiquity as evidenced by his Bush-bashing, Obama-worshipping columns in the Guardian and the Telegraph. [Nowhere man: a farewell to Dubya, all-time loser in presidential history, and US election: Barack Obama recalls Abraham Lincoln as America revels in making history]
Perhaps he really believes what he writes; perhaps he's a man in his 60s trying to recapture the exhilaration of what it was like to be young when the world seemed to be changing, those 40 years ago.
Perhaps he's one of the really dangerous ones who think that America is a society as desperate and corrupt as many in the Third World, and who view Obama not as a President of the United States, but as the charismatic leader of a Third World liberation movement. History is littered with examples of how those guys turned out.
Yet the consequences of Schama's elective separation from the American body politic do not seem to register with him. He has chosen to stay outside a society which has granted him access to its very best—and in turn the rest of us are supposed to be influenced by what he thinks is best for it?
That a few dodgy Brits might seek to influence the outcome of an American election is not perhaps so remarkable, until one ponders this.
Just how many Brits campaigned for Obama? How many French? Italians? Germans? Mexicans?
How many people granted the privilege of physical access to the United States felt so arrogant, so superior to American tradition, that they abused the privilege they had been given by seeking to influence its most important election?
One of the most significant questions with which historians of the future might have to grapple is to what extent Obama owed his victory to foreigners and foreign activists.
If so, it wasn't much or a victory for healing and pluralism—but for borderless emotional leftism.
Martin Kelly (email him) is a Glasgow, Scotland-based blogger.