Nerve-jangling political battles with massive global significance happen horribly frequently in America, and as 2012 begins, one of the scariest is showily grinding into action. The Republican Party has begun the process to select who will oppose Barack Obama in next winter’s presidential election.

From a leftist perspective, American politics is grim not just in being hawkish, dominated by money, and pathologically hostile to anything remotely socialistic, but also in the way successive governments have used their huge influence to spread this consensus around the world. And at its worst, American politics is Republican.

Effectively, the Democrats represent the equivalent of what most Europeans would see as mainstream politics, with a mildly social democratic left-wing and a socially and economically conservative Right – in American terms, the Democrats might be classed on the Left, but if all Tories were deported to America tomorrow we’d wager a large proportion would settle down as right-wing Dems rather than throw their lots in with the Sarah Palins of the world.

Like our political mainstream, the Democrats are very far from ideal. So is Barack Obama. ‘Change we can believe in’ from the man who was America’s most liberal Senator has essentially amounted to a moderate conservative Presidency. Rather than fighting for the European-stylesingle-payerhealthcare reforms wanted by doctor’s organisations and left-wing Democrats, the President’s ‘Obamacare’ is modelled on proposals by right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation. US troops might have finally withdrawn from Iraq, but Obama has largely stuck to Bush-era foreign policy to the extent of retaining his predecessor’s Defence Secretary. Without getting any concessions in return, last year he allowed the Republicans to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, while signing up for deficit reduction plans that, by his own admission, will leave America with ‘the lowest level of domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President’.

All that being said, after eight years of Bushite lunacy a moderate conservative Presidency is relatively relieving. Obama governs like the kind of centrist, sensible Republican that has all but ceased to exist in the Grand Old Party itself, and, compared to the tax-slashing pro-lifers, homophobes, foreign policy hawks, Creationists and Tea Party market fanatics that dominate it today, the Democrats remain the only sane option. People who aren’t any of the above should root like they’ve never rooted before for four more years of Obama.

The good news is that he will probably win – sitting Presidents usually do. But his healthcare reforms and banking regulations are loathed by many Americans, and this is likely to make any Obama victory much tighter than last time. A mid-December CNN poll asked registered voters who they were more likely to support, Barack Obama, or Republican front-runner Mitt Romney – 52% went for Obama, 45% for Romney. It goes without saying that this situation could change massively over the next 11 months, but whether the Democrat can squeak through come November largely rests on who the Republicans field against him.

This is why people who aren’t any of the above should also closely follow the palm-clammying race for the Republican presidential nomination. As well as waving the off-pink flag of left-wing least-worstism in praying for an Obama win – an endorsement his campaign team will undoubtedly treasure alongside messages of goodwill from Rotherham Town Council and the East Finchley Girl Guides – the Bemolution will be monitoring the Republican Primaries, and trying to make sense of the baffling finer points of American grassroots democracy.

Frank Zappa’s ‘Republicans’