WHEN America elected Ronald Reagan as its president I thought that was a one-off aberration in the functioning of the world’s “greatest democracy”.
I’m sure old Ron was a lovely bloke and I gather he was a fairly decent B-grade actor. But he was also an incredible embarrassment to those of us raised on “free world” rhetoric.
But when they elected George W. Bush (or perhaps we should say “when he came to power”, to make allowance for those who believe that the Republicans cheated him into the job) it became clear that something was desperately wrong with Uncle Sam’s mental health.
And had Mitt Romney been elected this week I would have concluded that the US body politic was indeed terminal.
Not saying that Obama is the statesman many of us had hoped for. His promises about world peace and economic reform haven’t gained much traction, and I regard his Nobel Peace Prize as a bad joke.
But electing Romney would have been like voting in Dracula on a platform of ridding the world of vampires.
The guy is a living lie, pure and simple.
Don’t go taking my word for that. Anybody with an internet-connected computer and a spare half-hour can read enough verifiable facts to make the case beyond doubt.
As a hedge fund champion, Romney typifies the corporate and financial parasitism that has done so much damage to America and to the economic system the world depends on.
Case after case is reported where Romney-linked vehicles borrowed money to take over troubled companies, loaded those companies with debt, repaid their original loans, pocketed huge profits and walked away laughing.
And every time he and others like him pulled this and similar stunts, the jobs and livelihoods of his fellow countrymen went offshore or vanished altogether.
This hollowing out and wanton destruction of America’s productive capacity in favour of unproductive “finance capitalism” is one of the major reasons the western economies are in such a terrible mess.
And even after the “global financial crisis”, the world’s politicians have been unable to summon the courage to bring the psychotic and dangerous banking industry to heel.
The fact that Romney was a serious contender for the US presidency tells you why, and the fact that this guy claimed, with a straight face, that he was worried about US debt, tells you who and what is pulling the strings where it matters.
When word got around that a big investment fund called HIG Capital (a generous supporter of the Romney campaign, in which the Romney family’s private equity fund, Solamere, has invested a lot of money) had taken control of a major US electronic voting machine company called Hart Intercivic, many jumped to unkind and hasty conclusions.
Like many other US voting machines, Hart’s have been accused of being less than secure. Indeed, they have been accused of being “easily susceptible to fraud”.
But the good news is that nobody has come forward with any evidence of widespread voting machine interference in the 2012 election.
So a lot of us are breathing a sigh of relief at the election result. Not because Obama is fantastic, however.
Think about the present US campaign of drone assassinations around the world in countries that the US is not at war with, and you might agree with me that it is a manifestation of pure evil.
But even though the banksters, the arms dealers, the war-mongers and the rabid hawks who are busting to smash Iran back into the stone age – like they did to Iraq – seem to get most of what they want from Obama, they still don’t seem satisfied.
From the point of view of ordinary folk all over the world just trying to get on with their lives, though, I have a feeling that missing out on having Mitt Romney for president is like having dodged a bullet.