I've been blogging for a while now and along the way I've met more Americans than any other nationality of people, I've clashed with a few of them and built excellent relationships with many of them and as times gone on I've become more and more fascinated by the political landscape of that great nation.
For me, it has always come down to how a man with the policies and beliefs of George W. Bush can win two elections with the backing of his people and why is it that the political make up of America is so much further to the right than Europe?
This line of enquiry owes much to John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge and their book "The Right Nation. Why America is Different" and the sources they have put me in touch with via their excellent tome. So go buy it!
First, for those of you that doubt that America is conservative (ie: is right of centre on most policy issues) at all, some thoughts: Americans tolerate lower levels of government spending than any other advanced country; Americans tolerate high levels of social inequality: 1 in 6 US households earns less than 35% of the median income with the nearest rival being the UK with 1 in 20; America is the only developed nation to not have a full government supported health-care system and the only Western democracy that does not provide child support to all its families; America does not provide paid maternity leave; America upholds the right to bear arms and still uses the death penalty; the US is far more willing to use force and is suspicious of International treaties; American citizens are far more religious than their European counterparts and more traditional in their moral values; the United States is one of the few developed countries where abortion is still a galvanising issue and where the majority of people say grace before their meals.
Importantly, these positions are not Republican but American and run through the very heart of American society. What's interesting is that a coherent conservative political force that reflects this agenda was lacking throughout most of America's political history, those on the right of American politics positioned themselves as 'true liberals' in the European sense of conservative governing (Nixon and Kennedy ran on virtually identical platforms) and the hard right was on the wane in the US. The peak of liberalism was of ocurse the 60s, when America got the closest it ever got to the European model of governance, reflected in 43% approval rating for the death penalty; Republicans using the middle ground of mixed economy and centrist politik; President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society and politicians wearing their European education and influences like a badge of honour.
And then came Barry Goldwater...