I'm interested in world politics. I follow UK politics, of course. I'd love to follow German, French and Italian politics, but I find them too complicated, plus I don't speak their languages. But I do follow US politics.
The US presidential election is a really big deal. They have one every four years, so the next one is November 2016, a year from now. In most sensible countries, the election campaign starts a few weeks before the election - in the USA, two years. So, the campaign has been going for several months now, and it seems to have narrowed down to four possibilities.
There are two parties, Republican and Democrat. And, of course, within each party, there are subgroups. The main subgroup in the Republicans is the "Tea Party", who do not sit around drinking tea out of fine china with cucumber sandwiches and scones. Sadly. No, they're rampant righties. They're keen on ultra-low taxation, minimal government and guns for everyone. The second subgroup of the Republicans are the Religious Right; they're anti-abortion (they call it pro-life), want America (that's what they call the USA) to be a Christian Nation (by which they mean Baptist, which is a sub-section of Protestant, meaning not-Catholic) and guns for everyone. And the rest of the Republican party are relatively sane (compared to TP and RR) but are dragged along in the same way that moderates always get dragged along by extremists.
The other party is the Democrats. I have no idea why the two parties have both chosen such meaningless names; at least "Conservative" and "Labour" have some relation to what they stand for. So again, there are subgroups. The main subgroup of the Democrats is the Party Machine, a kind of "Old Boys, School Tie" group, who (oddly enough) backed what Americans call a black guy (Obama, who from the look of him is really as much white as he is black). This is odd, because in America, race is a Really Big Deal. And this time around, the PM seems to be backing Hillary Clinton, wife of the serial philanderer and ex-president Bill, which is again surprising, because in America, gender is a Really Big Deal, and despite much noise being made in the direction of equality of genders, not much progress has been made - they're still fighting about gay marriage (especially the RR). And, of course, guns for everyone.
The other subgroup of the Democrats is just one guy, Bernie Sanders. And again, this is slightly surprising, because he's Jewish (and if you think antisemitism is dead in America, you haven't been watching), plus he's a closet atheist, which is a "NO WAY" in American politics. You can be a Protestant, a Catholic (JFK) or even a Mormon (Milt Romney), but "atheist" is seen as "Satanist", and although technically the Constitution allows atheists to be elected, a convicted pedophile would probably stand a better chance. So Bernie's trying to keep that under his hat. He wants guns for everyone. In America, unless you're "guns for everyone", you're unelectable.
So here's the four front runners.
Donald Trump. He's the American equivalent of Alan Sugar, but with all the sweetness removed. He's anti-Mexican (build a wall), anti-immigration (send them back), anti-women, thinks that Obama wasn't born in the USA (which would make him ineligible for president), and, well I could go on. Think of Nick Griffin (National Front, BNP) in a ginger wig, crossed with Oswald Mosely (British Union of Fascists, 1939). He's got loads-a-money, he says, and he's spending it on his campaign.
So if you think that's bad, you haven't met Ben Carson. He's a lot blacker than Obama, but that doesn't seem to hurt him, so maybe America is losing its racism. But he's a religionist, big time. He used to be a neurosurgeon, which must mean he's not stupid, but he has some really way-out ideas.
Women who get abortions are like slaveholders
Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery
Jews could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns
Muslims should be disqualified from the presidency
Being gay is a choice because prison turns people gay
And so on. He's Religious Right, only somewhat to the right of them, and more religious.
He's second in the polls for Republican candidate. Gasp. I can't think of anyone in the UK who would be his equivalent. We don't do batshit crazy, except, of course, for the Official Monster Raving Looney Party.
In the polls, Trump is a bit ahead of Carson, the rest are nowhere, although there's a Bush bumping along the bottom, and a few other guys I've never heard of.
So now let's look at the Democrat side. Here, at least we find less of the batshit crazy.
Hillary Clinton. She dresses nicely, talks nicely, smiles nicely, and has nice hair. She's nice. Really nice. She's just what you'd expect in a politician. Nice. When they took all of the sweetness out of Trump they converted it to nice and made Hillary. She doesn't appear to have any views, but she has been a Washington politician for decades. She doesn't say, or do, anything controversial; she's a "nice, safe pair of hands". She has pals like Tony Blair. In fact, if you wanted the closest UK equivalent, it would be Tony.
And the fourth jockey is Bernie (feel the Bern) Sanders. He's got the look (Einstein in shirtsleeves), he's got the gab (Blair on sincerity) and he's got the policies (Tony Benn in his prime). He wants to get Big Money out of politics (as of now, anyone can spend billions of dollars to get their puppet elected). He wants college tuition free. He wants to address income and wealth inequality. He wants something like our own dear NHS. And so on. He is a socialist; unfortunately, in America that's a swearword. He speaks at big rallies, he gets good face time on TV. He refuses to take donations from Big Money, and he wants to reverse the ruling that allows this (they're called Super PACs, it's a way to get round the campaign donations limitations). He's way behind Hillary in the polls, like half or a third her support. His obvious UK equivalent would be Jeremy Corbyn, in appearance and politics.
In the polls, Hillary has twice the support of Bernie, the rest are nothing.
I'm glad I don't have to choose between this lot.