The season of party conventions will soon be over and America is poised for two months of hard campaigning to elect the next president. There will be debates between Barack Obama and John McCain and between their running mates. The media blitz will get more fierce. Personal attacks will entertain and appall. For the first time in American history, there is serious contender of mixed race for the White House. It makes the issue of race an integral part of the political debate. Some Americans are going to continue to raise it openly. More could well make their choice, after a long period of reflection, one way or the other, as late as the moment of casting their vote.
In the past, I have seen the American democracy at work from close. As I follow the campaign in 2008 from across the Atlantic in Britain, the distance gives me the opportunity of detachment. I hope it allows me a panoramic view of the political tides that are to sweep across America before polling day on November 4. And it makes it possible to look at the democracy in America alongside the leading democracies in Europe and the place citizens of different races and creeds have in them. My interest in America is abiding – a country where I first arrived as a twenty-two-year-old to work as far back as 1974. My young grandchildren are Americans and live there.
Already, I have seen opposite currents in the campaign. On the one hand, a desperate desire for change after eight years of war, economic hemorrhaging and damage to America’s image under the Bush presidency. On the other, the tentative allegiance of sections of potential Democrat voters, despite powerful pledges of support for Barack Obama from Senator Hillary Clinton and the former President, Bill Clinton. More