Here’s a novel literary take on the American elections – Martin Amis talks to Daily Beast TV about the Republican National Convention.
‘Conventions have been the scenes of incredible dramas and power grabs, blocks and manoeuvrings,’ he said. ‘But now they’re cosmetic events. An infomercial – that’s what they’re there for.’
Of course, they can also deliver high theatre, when things go wrong – as with Clint Eastwood’s chair speech.
Amis mused about the lost opportunity of Condoleeza Rice running as vice-president, rather than Mitt Romney’s actual choice of Tea Party candidate Paul Ryan.
‘She got the biggest welcome there,’ he said, ruminating that Romney-Rice would have been ‘a terrifying ticket for a Democrat’, as Rice would have ticked three important boxes: ‘women, colour and foreign policy’.
Amis was scathing about the language ‘of rich people as job creators’ that he heard on the convention stage.
‘They want to be honoured, they want to be revered, they want a kind of public recognition, when in fact their reputation has never been lower.’
‘After they socialised the debt that accrued during that period of incredible greed, and it fell to every American family to pay back that debt, you’d think that would create humility.’
He sums up the Republican message as follows:
Obama might or might not have inherited a difficult situation (and Democrats, at least, will remember George W. Bush’s historic warning in 2008: ‘This sucker could go down’); but he hasn’t fixed it, so let’s try Romney, who’s a businessman, not a socialist.
He is similarly sceptical (to put it mildly) about the wisdom or effectiveness of the Republicans’ leading policy prescription of tax cuts, particularly for the rich – and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s stirring, but error-riddled, convention speech (‘very largely a pack of lies’).
Henry James once said that America is more like a world than a country. And for the last 70 years, the world, the globe, has been shaped by the example, and the gravitational force, of the American idea.
‘America shapes the world,’ he concludes in the Daily Beast video. ‘It would be nice if the world could vote.’
It’s pretty obvious who Amis thinks the world would choose.
The Wheeler Centre’s AMERICA events series concludes this week.
Join us tomorrow night, Tuesday 25 September, at 6.30pm for our Intelligence Squared Debate, Western Civilisation is in Terminal Decline.
On Friday night, we’ll talk elections with the Atlantic’s national correspondent James Fallows, a former speechwriter for ex-president Jimmy Carter.
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