Whilst Ireland certainly isn’t the only place in the world with love for the Junior Senator from Illinois, it’s painfully apparent that, should I wish to book a pro-McCain election night party, the tiny (and excellent) Ould Plaid Shawl pub in Kinvara, Co. Galway would be plenty big to hold it without disturbing the kids playing pool.
The reasons for the apparent worldwide support for Barack Obama are manifold, from the obvious and worthy high romance of an African-American taking the white house, to his youthful looks and energy, to his prescient objection to the Iraq war… and then, from a woolly start the reasoning becomes progressively more flocculent.
Of course, it is legitimate to take the position, as many have, that Bush’s period in office has been catastrophic, and that the world’s leading nation will likely do better under a centre-left politician of admirable panache and charm. That’s understood; people hate Bush and are quite happy to overlook his charisma, even though it’s not always fair so to do.
The puzzle, though, is why Irish people are so engrossed in a battle with, compared to elections in 1992 onward, so little significance for the island of Ireland. Would either Obama or McCain bother to come to Ireland? Will either of them pay any attention to the atlantic sod; a nation with effective neutrality, playing no overt part in Echelon, and whose days as a vector for American bluechips are circumscribed by the rapid development of a skills and trading base in the Middle and Far Easts?
It’s possible, of course, that Obama will chuck in an apostrophe, become Barney O’Bama for the day and play a bit of golf with Tiger Woods at the K Club. Or possibly some summit or other will be arranged by Ireland’s erstwhile Taioseach, and world leaders will grab a cup of tea and some Barnbrack at Dublin Castle.
Now, some will comment ‘We’re global citizens, we’re entitled to be concerned with the most significant election in eight years’. And they will of course be right; there is an entitlement in a nation so within the sphere of influence of the United States, to be engrossed in the US elections. But one cautionary note:
Americans absolutely hate being told what to do, and how to vote; the entreaty of the world community to the USA to vote Obama is galvanising republicans, reminding them of Splendid Isolation and encouraging them to say ‘to hell with the world’. If McCain can say ‘the rest of the world, the terrorist nations, Old Europe; they want you to vote Obama’, the fervour for Obama could well be an equal and opposite reaction in the states. Not too good for Obamistas here, since Americans have votes, and ye don’t.