Barack Obama's election was, of course, an epoch-defining moment.
Not only the first black man to be elected President of the United States, Obama — whether you support him or not — is charismatic and a great orator. He is also young. And very photogenic in a West Wing-y kind of way.
Only in America, as they say, but, oh, what a painful contrast to our dullards at Stormont.
Peter. Gerry/Martin. Mark. Sir Reg. Even David* (I bet a goodly porportion of you reading this don't even know to whom I’m referring there). Compare and contrast.
And, no, this is not some bit of gratuitous cruelty about our party leaders not being eye-candy ... Instead, it’s about just how stupendously yawn-inducing they are.
A bit like Dracula and mirrors, our leaders manage to photograph grey even in glorious technicolor.
And like Drac, they are prone to being impossible to get rid of. Unloved and undead they roam the streets from Ormeau Avenue to Havelock House, looking for fresh victims to drain the life blood out of.
The newest party leader, Peter Robinson, has been around forever waiting to step into the shoes of Big Ian, who, in turn, was around for .... oh, ... about 1,000 years. Mark Durkan has been leader of the SDLP for yonks. And before that, for the guts of two decades, we had the sanctimonious waffle of John Hume.
Sir Reg, who is not exactly an exciting new voice, is only there because of the collapse of Trimble. And before Trimble we had James Molyneaux. All of them had remarkably long careers as party leaders.
Let's not even go to the Ourselves Alone boys. Depending if you're shaking their ballot box hand or their armalite one, they've been leading the republican movement for 20, 30, 40 years. Even their famed ‘collective leadership' groan with a grey ennui. Think of the Soviet politburo but without the glamour. Hey, kids, let's get inspired by Mitchell McLaughlin.
And, let's face it, the Alliance Party would still be led by John Alderdice if he hadn't decided that his time would be better off as Speaker and a member of the Independent Monitoring Commission.
The lifeblood of American politics is change. (Yes, even George Bush was elected on the basis that he was going to do things differently.) Here, the motto seems to be ‘Business as usual'.
Our parties seem to have everything neatly sewn up with the public only being called in to rubber stamp how they've cut up the cake. For Northern Ireland, voting is not a case of ‘Yes, we can' but rather ‘No, we can't'.
A few years ago, few had heard of Barack Obama and the idea of him becoming president would have been dismissed as ludicrous — regardless of his ethnicity.
Ok, he did have millions of dollars behind him, but the point is he went out, argued, canvassed, caucaused at tiny meetings. He challenged his party's leadership and, in the end, prevailed. Indeed, the same could be said of his opponent, John McCain.
In America — for all our sneering — the public get what the public want. Here, the public want what the public get.
No primaries or caucauses for us. No sense of anyone trying to persuade us. Or engage. Or charm. Why bother when our votes are in the bag? And even if they aren't, everyone (except Alliance) are back in government anyway.
We're just here to play our (bit) part in Groundhog Day. Again. And again. And again. There's really no role in Northern Ireland politics for an individual to make a real difference. Even in Britain, times are a-changing. Look at the remarkable win for Boris Johnston in the London mayoral election. Once again, an individual not a grey yes-man. Even the man he ousted, Ken Livingstone, could hardly be described as a New Labour clone.
Of course, some will point out that we have hundreds of MLAs and local councillors. But let's be frank, 99% are forced by tribal circumstances to toe the party line, not act as individuals. Consequently, politics here is dying, starved of talent and imagination.
We need the people to be more directly involved. As our councils are in the process of being reduced from 26 to 11, why can't we have our mayors directly elected? If not all new councils, then why not the major cities of Belfast and Londonderry? As a start. Then we can move on to some of the countless quangos that govern us.
Who knows? We might remember that we are free men and women and not just voting fodder for our political masters.