And so the big day has arrived, and all of the news coverage is of the inauguration of that nice Senator Obama as President.
The British have always felt more at home with a Democrat in the White House, regardless of the affability or competence of the man himself, and I suspect that this is due to the chasm in ideology between Europe and the US.
Even the British, with our so-called special relationship, find Republicans hard work. The fixation with guns and religion is alien to most of us, given that we've banned handguns and licenced everything else. As for religion, we tend to the view that our faith, or lack thereof, is a private matter, not to be broadcast. Even the evangelical movement here is rooted in the Afro-Caribbean community, and hasn't really penetrated the consciousness of the rest of the population.
We're also more internationalist in our outlook. Whilst Kennedy, Clinton and Obama had travelled widely prior to their election, and not just to fight, many Republican contenders have been less travelled. Our experiences within a common Europe engender a belief in collective action, whereas Republicans tend to the view that, given that they have the capability, they can act alone, at least to some extent.
Bill Clinton was so popular here that, even in the midst of the impeachment hearings, his approval rating was 63%. Regardless of what he did at home, he was felt to be willing to persuade allies to act in concert, rather than browbeat them into acquiescence. His support for the Northern Ireland peace process was invaluable, and the warmth of the welcome given to him when he visited Belfast was utterly genuine.
George W Bush will be irredeemably linked to the invasion of Iraq, an action opposed by the majority of the British people, and the cause of too many resented deaths of young servicemen and women. Regardless of the validity of the invasion, it was felt that the US was ignoring the international framework for conflict resolution, faulty and ineffectual though it has often been.
We also struggle with questions related to the role of government. There is a far greater sense that government has an active role in building a better society, whereas Americans, particularly Republicans tend to be suspicious of 'big government'.
And so we welcome President Obama. He represents politics that we can relate to, but with added charisma and a sense of romance that we aspire to. He looks like a statesman, sounds like one too. The only worry is that we expect too much of him, but he's clever, articulate and appears to be managing our expectations closer to reality.
I wish him well...