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Nothing to Barack about

16 Nov 2010

First Published on The Drum 16/11/2010

If the mid-term drubbings and G20 currency fisticuffs with China are not enough, Barack Obama will return home with more bad news: Australians think his nation has lost its mojo.

While Julia Gillard and entourage were all smiles at the official photo call, they politely chose not to disclose they were representing a nation that thinks the USA is in decline.

In fact, 60 per cent of all surveyed in this week’s Essential Report see the American Empire’s influence becoming weaker, with just 20 per cent believing the USA’s influence on the world is on the rise.

Q. Do you think the influence of the United States in the world is becoming stronger or weaker?

Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens
Total stronger 20% 23% 17% 20%
Total weaker 60% 56% 63% 73%
No change 14% 14% 16% 6%
Don’t know 7% 5% 5% 1%

Consider the elements that made America great in the 20th century and it all starts to make sense.

Economy: There was the sub-prime debacle, then there was the GFC, then there was the trillion-dollar deficit and now the currency is heading toward the peso. It won’t be long before Australians are heading over to the US to do some bargain shopping and exploit the natives. Frankly, how can we respect a currency that is worth less than the Australian dollar?

War: It’s harsh, but true. The Americans have not won a war since the 1950s. Sure they outspent the Russians to win the arms race and manage to covertly intervene in the affairs of a number of sovereign states, but when it comes to real battles with real guns, the US has had a pretty dry run. Think Vietnam, think Iraq, think Afghanistan. Long time since we’ve heard the words ‘Mission Accomplished’ uttered without irony.

Faith: Now I have nothing against God, but a nation that almost universally professes faith and then uses it to organise the extreme right to promote the use of handguns, the abolition of birth control and actively promotes discrimination against fellow humans are working off a strange text.

Health: For a nation that always prided itself on its collective weight, America’s fast food chains are losing their influence on Australians. First McDonalds were forced to introduce a salad. Now Krispy Kreme donuts have gone bust. It’s harder to get a seat at the Sushi-Train than a place in the drive-away queue at KFC.

Culture: American movies once were the shop-front for freedom, today you have to buy the good stuff in HBO box sets. In an effort to dominate the world, Hollywood blew up too many things and delivered too many happy endings. Kind of a metaphor for everything else, really.

Sport: During the Cold War, sporting supremacy was the proxy for global power. But Tiger Woods hasn’t won for 12 months, there is only one US male tennis player ranked in the top 10, Japan just won the world baseball championship and China won more Gold Medals at the Beijing Olympics. Ouch.

Values: Speaking of China. Power and influence is relative and Australians have had it rammed down our throat that we are a wealthy nation because we are selling our mineral riches to a repressive communist regime with questionable market practices but great purchasing power. Compared to that, ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ just seems a little lame.

Politics: And here’s the clincher. In the middle of all these troubles you find the closest thing to a Philosopher King to replace the Idiot Prince who has taken you down the road to irrelevance and what do you do? You blame him for all the sins of his predecessor, delivering him a government every bit as dysfunctional as the country he is being asked to lead.

Peter Lewis, Director, EMC