Ah… the life of the single issue protagonist. Here’s a peep inside our brain, a scene setter.
The ONE campaign has two and half million members, who urge us to make the case for increased aid as a key plank in America’s new foreign policy. ONE T-shirts have been turning up in town hall meetings for 18 months now, haranguing, hassling, but ultimately endearing themselves to all the presidential campaigns. They want the world to see what America has to offer the billion people who live on less than a dollar a day – practically speaking: medicine, new seed varieties, technology, know-how; policy speaking: what should America do more of? what should America do less of?
They want the world to understand that America is not just a country but an idea, a contagious idea, committed to promoting the inalienable right that all men and women are created equal; that your street address should not be a death sentence in what Warren Buffet refers to as the “ovarian lotto”; that love thy neighbour is not advice, but a command.
ONE members are thrilled that Barack Obama and John McCain both have an open door policy with the our campaign. But I must admit, today, as I step through one of those doors to talk with Senator McCain and Governor Palin, the Irish rockstar in me is a little nervous about the circus rolling over the town rather than through it. We know the flash bulbs and hysteria around the presidential campaign make it hard to concentrate on the substance of the ideas we’ve got to discuss ie development as an essential third plank of foreign policy, along with diplomacy and defence.
It’s a tribute to the generosity of Americans that they let this Irishman get away with quoting back at them The Declaration of Independence like it’s the liner notes to my favourite Bob Dylan album (but it sort of is). Anyway we’ve now met with nearly a dozen of the presidential candidates in the course of their campaigns and of the four candidates left, three have declared their positions at onevote08.org/ontherecord, if you want to check them out.
On AIDS for example, Senators Obama and McCain both cosponsored the historic $48bn US AIDS initiative this year – an effort lead by Joe Biden – who I might add also fought in the trenches for debt cancellation for the poorest of the poor when I first started down this road. So it will be interesting to find out where Governor Palin stands.
Just a couple of years ago it would have been impossible for the issue of extreme poverty to play even a tiny role in the American political season. So far this year, all candidates have made positive noises, rooted in the most pragmatic of thinking about how America reintroduces itself to the world after the election. When even the defence minister pitches your roving rockstar the idea that an increase in aid is essential, you know something’s happening.
Anyway, I’ll let you know how I get on. Fingers crossed that the world’s poor do not become a pawn in any candidate’s game, but instead influence the players to make moves on their behalf.