I was in Washington DC for your election, and as a result, of course, had absolutely no idea at all of how America was going to vote. Going to your capital city to judge American public opinion is a bit like sitting in the Pentagon and trying to guess how many weapons of mass destruction there are in Iraq.
But, as the polls closed, all those well informed East Coast pundits and journalists were telling me that John Kerry had won. Most of them seemed more than pleased at the prospect and I was prepared to accept their judgement. After all, there were good reasons to think that George W. Bush would lose.
There was Iraq, and economic problems, and that distinctive George W style, which produces the same kind of instinctive dislike in this country that Margaret Thatcher used to find in Scotland.
A lot of people in Europe have never understood how he became President in the first place. The religious side of George Bush in particular would make him unsuitable for election here in Britain. Politicians here just don't mention God, it has gone out of fashion since the population abandoned Christianity. In fact having such beliefs can be fatal.
A candidate for one of the top European Union jobs, an Italian Catholic called Rocco Buttiglione, has just been booted out because he said homosexuality was a sin and single mothers were not very good people. The politicians in the European Parliament who had to approve his appointment were outraged, and successfully demanded that the Italian government withdraw his nomination.
Now, what I didn't understand before your election result is that in large parts of America, talking of God and taking a moral stand on issues like banning gay marriage is a sure vote winner. Indeed, that seems to have been what won it for Mr. Bush. So could it happen in Europe? Remember, Mr.Buttiglione was not kicked out by the electorate... but by a group of liberal politicians. If you put his ideas to the voters of Italy, I suspect you would win a majority.
Could the lesson of America be that taking a strong traditional stand on issues like homosexuality and abortion is the route to power? Our political classes here have been watching carefully. And yesterday morning, Mr. Buttiglione made a big speech in Italy announcing the creation of a new political movement - with morality at its centre. It's Europe's answer to the neo-cons -- here come the theo-cons!
By Peter Allen
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