A view of American politics from across the pond

Add this to your list of weekend reading choices. The Guardian has published an editorial with some general observations on the political process in the United States, specifically focusing on the GOP primary race. It’s not particularly shocking in terms of the stories they choose to highlight – very much the same ones we cover here on a daily basis – but more for the unique slant they put on the pitfalls which await anyone seeking the presidency here. A brief sample from the opening:

Those who wish to serve the American people in the republic’s highest office embark on an almost medieval series of trials of character and endurance. They must avoid the political equivalents of the slough of despair, the sucking bog of emotionalism, the dreaded stupidity tree, the equally dreaded pit which awaits the overly clever, the dungeon of sexist blunders and other Pythonesque terrors on their way to the castle in which languishes the enchanted princess, otherwise known as their party’s nomination for president. It is a harsh business: one misstep, one ill-chosen word, one witness to earlier misdeeds can bring you down and, often, not just down but out.

The intricate arabesque the successful candidate must trace can resemble that of a skier zigzagging down a slope dotted with barrels of nitroglycerine. The process has a farcical dimension, and sometimes induces a state of almost catatonic caution in the candidates. But it is pretty good at weeding out people who ought not to be the president of the United States, and the way the Republican field is now narrowing is heartening.

Right off the bat, they point out something which some of us tend to forget in the heat of the battle. The primaries are brutal to be sure, but they serve a purpose. You want the best and you need to winnow out the weak members of the herd before they move up to the big leagues. It’s not always pretty, and it frequently gets downright unfair, but how the candidates react to this type of adversity will at least tell us something of how they will perform down the line.

As to the specific candidates, the Guardian’s views aren’t all that different from many American pundits. They touch on Bachmann’s meteoric rise and fall and Rick Perry’s recent “oops” moment. When it comes to Herman Cain, they spend less time worrying about his problems with sexual harassment charges and more on his singing of pizza related tunes.

As Perry subsides into the scenery, so Herman Cain is flailing because of allegations of sexual harassment. Even though these have so far not damaged him as much as was expected, there seems to be a growing understanding among voters that the United States of America is not a pizza, or even a pizza company. To riff on the jingle from the Godfather’s restaurant chain he once ran, da goods may not be in da box.

Their take on Newt may be even more amusing. In any event, give it a read. It’s frequently useful to step outside of the box and see how we are viewed by other cultures, and this is a well written and amusing peek into how the UK sees our political arena. I’m sure they’d love to hear what we say about theirs…