Even in Kansas

Speaking of those United States, the latest edition of Meanjin appears on the streets tomorrow, and carries an essay I wrote back in May on the presidential election. It's called 'Even in Kansas' — ostensibly a review of Don Watson's recent book on America.

Here's a snippet from near the end of the piece:

Part of the enthusiasm derives from the slate of candidates: the studious former First Lady and a visionary African-American, competing for the right to take on the decorated former prisoner of war. Of course there are plenty of citizens caught up in the Hollywood storyline. But greater energy stems from the sense that a series of fault-lines that have increasingly divided the country are being sealed over by this campaign, that the fortresses of the red-state/blue-state years, which by 2004 seemed like a sectarian cold war, are crumbling in fits and starts. McCain and Obama are tussling over independent voters, taking a different tack to the Rovian philosophy of energising the base, and both could lay some claim to post-partisan political outlooks, if the term weren’t mostly meaningless in an active Western democracy. McCain, in fact, has had to back-pedal from his monicker as a maverick, to prove his Republican heart, and he will have to wear the charge of Bush Mk II from Democratic campaigners, though it’s not entirely a fair one. Obama has a surer base, although he too has to mend the rifts of an arduous primary season. His proclivities lie in reconciliation, even to the detriment of his political fortune, as when in January he found himself under pressure in Reno, Nevada, for telling a newspaper’s editorial board that “the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time” and that “Reagan changed the trajectory of America... in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” They were reasonable, even illuminating observations, but Hillary, campaigning to a more traditional wisdom, turned them to her advantage.

The entire edition is exceptional — my part the least of it — and I'm excited that with Sophie Cunningham at the helm, Meanjin seems to be turning a corner.

Joseph | 31 Aug 2008

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