Change in America

Sarah Palin speaking at a rally in Elon, NC during the 2008 Presidential Campaign (picture Therealbs2002)

Every other blog is writing about Sarah Palin, Republican nominee for vice-president of the United States, so why shouldn’t this one. Not for Federal Union, though, speculation about her private life or her daughter’s private life: instead, a reflection on geopolitics and the future of the transatlantic relationship.

It’s all about the A states, you see. John McCain represents Arizona and Mrs Palin is governor of Alaska. Both are on the western side of the United States, looking towards the Pacific and China, rather than on the east coast, looking towards Europe. Democrat VP candidate Joe Biden is a traditional east-coaster: he has an Irish Catholic background, grew up in Pennsylvania and now represents Delaware. (Barack Obama, of course, aspires to being a citizen of the world.)

It has long been a trend in American life that the centre of gravity is moving from the north and east to the south and west. More goods now flow back and forth across the Pacific than across the Atlantic. Demographically, the population of the sunshine belt is rising much faster than that of the rustbelt, while the main countries that send immigrants to the United States are also in the south and east. Of the top twelve countries, five are in Asia and seven are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The nomination of Sarah Palin is a reflection of this. More and more of American politics, too, will come from the south and west. Economics and demographics have their consequences.

One question is whether America is ready for this change, but another is whether Europe is ready. For decades, Europeans have been able to assume that Americans are just people like us, only living on the other side of the Atlantic – if you go back far enough, that is exactly what the founders of the United States were – but is that true any longer?

American interests around the world are diverging from European ones, not because of political or ideological choice but because of some objective facts. The choice facing Europe is how to react to those facts. It is not only America that has to change.

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