Max asked this in the comments and I thought it might make a decent blog post.
The simple answer is that, in my eyes, American politics is still rooted in the big ideas of freedom and democracy. British politics, for all its complications, is mundane in its breadth of thinking. There are some big ideas that shift the political ground – Thatcherism and the rise of the free market being the most obvious in the 1970s, and then, perhaps, smaller and less long lived, the Left’s response to that in the form of New Labour – but really these arguments are settled. British politics is often about how one clique tries to restore the values of one of these two movements whilst their respective parties fart around and fail to achieve a proper grasp on power. What we’re then left with, instead, are the politics of the party, often revolving around the politics of personality. There are some big divisions that we see but they tend to be rather crudely drawn; moderates and hardliners and the power dynamics between the two evolving according to success in the polls. Except for Brexit, we rarely have big fundamental ideas that separate us and lead us into interesting arguments.
America, however, is still arguing the stuff of the Enlightenment and as somebody given that I studied the eighteenth century, I find that exciting. The reason I love Pope (title of this blog) and Swift is the same reason I enjoy US politics. I’m not a huge fan of any politics that eventually reduces down to the Divine Right of Kings, even in the British system as moderated by Parliament. I do, however, find it fascinating when we have a constitutional crisis, like we had with the Supreme Court decision on the proroguing of parliament. I found those court sessions compelling and listened to every hour of them. Beyond that, I don’t find parliament that interesting.
In the US, it’s quite common to hear the philosophy of Hobbes and Locke discussed in ordinary political discourse as though they’re still relevant. Americans still argue about Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian notions of democracy, which we’re now seeing been played out with Trump’s attitude towards the states. On top of that, we have the Constitution, a document written to embody human rationality but constantly being turned into a religious text by the conservatives. The philosophy around that I can’t help but find interesting. As an atheist, I also find the religious debates more satisfying, compared to the UK where (I think) our secularism is more settled.
Then, of course, America is the leader in technology and, being obsessed with tech, I see America as leading us into the future. US politics can stray into the space race, which is a mild obsession of mine, and then internet freedom, Big Tech, as well (in the past) a more aggressive attitude towards renewable power. Plus, given the size of the nation, there are often interesting things going on. Plus, America is the epitome of the modern capitalist and celebrity culture, so how that interacts with politics is also interesting…
Then there’s also great satire coming out of America, plus I generally find their comedy better, especially around politics. I love American culture of the 1970s, especially the Nixon era. Many of my writing heroes of the past also wrote about it: PJ O’Rourke, Hunter S. Thompson, Christopher Hitchens… These days, I enjoy quite a few US writers, with Rick Wilson being a current favourite.
Lastly, and perhaps as important as any of the above points: it doesn’t affect me. I can watch it fairly impassively, with no skin in the game. Watching UK politics just reminds me that I can never write about it. It’s pretty much a closed shop with every bugger with a PPE degree from Oxbridge jumping into the game. (I also have a long history as a UK political blogger which sort of ruined it for me but it’s a very long story, usually involving rejection). Then, of course, there’s the reality of UK political coverage which is starkly drawn between two monumentally flawed camps. There’s not much room for a centrist like me, and even less of a welcome. Even when I do get drawn into the day to day business of UK politics, I often feel all manner of pissed off at how Londoncentric the business is. It reminds me that, living in Labour heartland, my vote means nothing. It never has. Nor does my voice. So I look to America instead.