Hot dang, the boy is back. He's older, greyer, gaunter and looks more like he's recovering from some kind of tropical disease, but Barry has once again given American students in London the gift of not having to pretend to be Canadian at house parties. Well, for the next four years, anyway.
You've gotta feel a little sorry for the Republicans, really. They've been left with that same sense that the Democrats must have felt when John Kerry was in charge: coming so close, but failing after leaving their bid in the hands of a man who looks like a high school principal going through a sex scandal. Barack's win wasn't emphatic in any respect, but it was unchallenged – kind of like when Santana wins "Best Latin Instrumental Album" at the Grammys every single year.
Let's take down the bunting for a second, though, and consider what might have been – which Republican dreams may have been realised and which liberal nightmares might have picked up steam again. The world is a very different place under conservative presidents, and not just politically. They also inspire a slew of unfortunate stereotypes: the tedious, omnipresent lefty-demagogues, bad slogan hoodies and terrible, terrible music.
Here are just a few of the things that make even will.i.am's "Yes We Can" seem bearable in comparison.
I've always suspected that punk bands and socially-conscious rappers have a kind of Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with right-wing leaders. Sure, they might be raging against the Republican machine while it's in power, but I've got a sneaking suspicion they miss them when there's a Dem' in office and the only campaigns they can get behind are about obscure miscarriages of justice (FREE... SOMEBODY!) and women's rights. Worthy subjects, of course, but nothing pleases these guys more than directly railing against the head of state via that most potent and proven of regime-destroying weapons: the protest song.
The Bush era in particular spawned some truly dreadful "political" albums from acts who were either systematic system-haters or those who'd recently been inspired to be so. Among the chief offenders was the previously puerile NOFX's pun-heavy 2003 album The War On Errorism, a heavy-handed, three-chord pop-punk spit in the eye of an administration that was too busy wearing its imperialist Desert Storm Ray-Bans to give a shit.
Then there was Eminem's "Mosh" (the early-noughties "Ill Manors", but more ill-informed), Neil Young's admirably straight-faced "Let's Impeach the President" and Pearl Jam's post-grunge, polito-turd "Bu$hleaguer". Weird to think that, pre-A$AP Mob, dollar signs were fraught with negative connotations.
What do all these works lack? Well, it's that crucial element that separates Woody Guthrie from System Of a Down: subtletly. I'm not saying that all music needs to coat its message in metaphors, but my god, there must be a better way of doing it than rhyming "elected" and "neglected" for the thousandth time.
Photo by David Shankbone
Okay, so Michael Moore hasn't given up on making films, but let's face it, he made a lot more sense in the Bush-era. It was a time in which the left-leaning world was so desperate for a figurehead that it made sense to elect an independent documentary maker and doorstop book author as its Jesus.
Before Bush, Moore was a man who'd probably struggle to fill a mid-size Waterstone's book-signing event. Afterwards, he was being touted by his supporters as an American Mandela, whereas his detractors saw him as something closer to a trucker-capped Robespierre (remember, in the early noughties, even serious political commentators wore trucker caps).
Then Obama came in and Moore started to sound like Emmeline Pankhurst talking about Reaganomics. Or like how Chuck D does when he talks about anything. The quintessentially millenial ideas of "fear" and "terror" had become "hope" and "change". There were still problems for him to make occasionally incisive, constantly cloyingly-sentimental movies about, but these were long-standing American societal issues rather than zeitgeist moments.
Mike, maybe you should start looking at scripted movies in the future, because the world's narrative isn't on your side.
Photo by Rupert Taylor-Price
It seems odd to think about it now, but a lot of Europeans who came of age during the late Clinton and Bush years were almost indoctrinated with anti-American prejudice. We were told by BBC comedians, Britpop stars and sometimes even our own parents that all Americans look like the guy above, eat Twinkies and accidentally shoot each other in the face. To them, America was not the country that produced the New Deal, disco music and John Updike, but one that produced the NRA, Ted Nugent and Timothy McVeigh. They were the world's laughing stock; we saw them as hillbillies rather than pioneers and they ended up as easy fodder for smug Oxbridge comics to sneer at on QI.
Yet we're the ones who still buy into Johnny Hallyday and the monarchy.
Perceptions of America have come a long way since Obama got in, but a return for Romney would've surely sent a lot of people's ideas of the land of the free back into the hypocritical, holier-than-thou dark ages they dwelled in at the beginning of the century.
Of course, there are two sides of the coin to this bullshit national stereotyping, and when America thinks people are hating on it, boy, do they pull rank. The most frequently cited example of this is the notorious "Freedom Fries incident", when a few American eateries decided to play into the anti-Old World hysteria and rename the decidely Euro "French fries" as "freedom fries". Of course, Ian Hislop and the rest of Europe all found this very funny.
It's a natural reaction – when you feel like you're being hated on by an entire continent, you fight fire with fire. We said they were all obese, flag-waving Waco members in the making, they said we were all homosexual Communists. America has its own problems right now, so their current view of us is probably somewhere around "indifferent", but had Romney got in, I wouldn't be too surprised if someone ended up calling me a "cheese eating surrender monkey" for ordering a Perrier at Disneyland.
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Photo by jotor
When I was about 13, the idea of placing a sticker on a District Line escalator saying "Bush is another word for cunt" seemed like a pretty dangerous political statement. Ten years later, it seems like a naive, pointless and disappointingly legal exercise. While it was a sentiment that most right-thinking, left-leaning people could get on board with, the kind of proto-Reddit sloganeering it came from seems a bit embarrassing in hindsight.
There seemed to be an entire industry dedicated to mocking Dubya. (Remember that?) So much so that you couldn't help but feel a little bit sorry for the poor, evil bastard. Iraq aside, there didn't seem to be many acute opinions about his policies. Really, the lasting memory of Bush on this side of the pond seems to be that he sometimes got his words mixed up when speaking off cue. Once he couldn't find a door handle, once he choked on a Pretzel and Jon Culshaw did a shit impression of him in which he said "my fellow Armenians" a lot. It's like his entire presidency was reduced to a 2DTV sketch.
Forget counter-productive economic policies, aggressive military posturing and their medieval opinions on homosexuality and abortion – any one of these reasons is probably enough to excuse voting for Al Gore. You might be cynical about Obama's achievements, but I'd rather have him playing tiddlywinks in the Oval Office than the return of the days when Marylin Manson was seen as an important cultural commentator.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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