An Admirable Folly
From afar, America’s presidential contests often look more like playground antics than a shining example of democracy. But looks can be deceiving.
Every four years, when the British and other Europeans watch with shock, awe, and incomprehension the presidential contest that convulses the United States, I’m reminded of President Julius Nyerere’s joking retort decades ago to American visitors who criticized his one-party state in Tanzania. The United States is a one-party state too, he would say, but since America is so big, it takes two parties to do the job. Nyerere saw no real difference between America’s two major political parties and nothing much at stake in its elections, a view typical of the mid-20th-century socialist tradition he absorbed as a student in England and one that still informs views of American politics from across the Atlantic.
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Denis MacShane is a Labor Party member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and was minister for Europe in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration. He serves on the Council of Europe and frequently writes for newspapers in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. His new book, Globalizing Hatred: The New Antisemitism, will be published in London this fall.more from this author >>