There has been such enthusiasm for Barack Obama in Britain that it is strange no one seems to have looked into his feelings about Britain. It is perhaps natural for his foreign supporters to assume that their adoration of the president-elect will be returned, but there is no indication that Obama is at all Anglophile or interested in the "special relationship" in any profound way. All indications seem to be that he will be much more interested in winning the affection of what used to be called the Third World than in paying attention to the adoring electorates of Western Europe. Moreover, it's possible that he might look past all the British talk about how wonderful it is to have a black man in the White House and notice with distaste how little minority representation there is in British public life.
It will certainly be interesting to see if his election prompts a genuine and profound shift in British attitudes to America. Many people believe that the Bush presidency has deepened anti-American feeling in the UK, though the gloating reactions to the 9/11 attacks by the likes of Cambridge professor Mary "they had it coming" Beard might imply that anti-Americanism was already established as a virulent force in establishment Britain long before W. arrived in the White House. You can quite easily detect deeper currents of hostility or jealousy or disdain that have little to do with any particular administration, everywhere from newspaper headlines ("Yanks Kill Our Boys" about a friendly-fire accident in Afghanistan) to the way that popular slang has evolved: it's fascinating, for example, that "cowboy" in Britain is a pejorative adjective implying carelessness, lawlessness and lack of integrity, whereas in America its connotations are almost all virtuous.
Some clue to the way things might turn is offered by the spate of books, and radio and television programmes, prompted by the imminence of the American presidential election. They purported to examine the United States, her character and her role in the world; many of them were presented by media celebrities like Stephen Fry, Simon Schama and Jon Snow. Some, like Fry's, were genuinely affectionate. Others were patronising or verged on the hostile. It was probably telling that a BBC Radio 4 debate about the greatest influences on America included the radical leftist Howard Zinn but did not seek to balance his extremist vision of America as an agent of evil with an equally fervent pro-American booster.
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