Gary Younge and Dan Chung no doubt feel like strangers in a strange land. That’s even more evident as the two Brits travel across the U.S. documenting the run up to the 2006 election.
The pair, journalists from The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, began their journey last week in Illinois — the home of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. They will end the trip in Nancy Pelosi’s district to contrast the possible leadership change in the U.S. House.
Colorado Confidential met up with Younge and Chung at the Skylark Lounge in Denver to talk politics. Click the image to view the Guardian Unlimited’s field dispatches from America.
CC: Can you tell me about your project?
Younge: We’re talking to people about what issues are important to them. We’re trying to get away from the polls and the high politics which is just who’s up and who’s down. And trying to get a feel for what’s important to the country.
CC: What have you learned thus far?
Younge: It’s all too rare that people discuss the issues. They talk about Iraq or immigration but there’s no substantive plans. There’s lots of symbols but no substance.
CC: What kind of contrasts do you see, if any, between American and British politics?
Younge: In America, there is extraordinary ambivalence about politics. The problem is that in such a policy void anything can happen. That’s what’s going on right now with the war. It’s not uniquely American. When the British were the center of the empire they were also similarly ignorant about the rest of the world. The problem is empire-building not America.
CC: Who have you interviewed so far?
Younge: We spoke to John Laesch who is running against Dennis Hastert. And we’ve spoken to people in Tammy Duckworth’s constituency. We spoke to Bruce Braley who is running in Iowa at a gun club meeting. We also interviewed a couple whose son has been sent to Iraq on a stop-loss and they’re very angry about that.
Then, we went to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. We spoke to some very drunk kids at a Halloween party. Superman. Wilma Flintstone. In various stages of inebriation.
CC: Have you followed any campaigns in Colorado?
Younge: We just got to Denver today. We are following issues not so much campaigns. My personal view is that Republican versus Democrat is not the most interesting way to understand America.
CC: What are your impressions of American politics?
Younge: Well… one thing that strikes me is that American people are very demanding consumers. But with politics, they’re not very demanding at all.
Younge and Chung’s dispatch from Denver — which includes interviews of local and national progressive bloggers — can be viewed at their online travelogue.