Picking Sides

Note: I wrote this on the train. Just so you could get your fix…

Apparently there is an election going on in America. Well, according to some its been going on from anywhere between 3 months to almost 4 years. To be a technical little shit, it’s actually a campaign and elections are the actual voting process, but that’s splitting hairs when it comes to Americans and their politics. It does make you think about who’s running the country with their finger on the big red button, but I’m sure no one is planning a nuclear strike any time soon… Hmm.

I have always followed American elections pretty closely. The first one I recall having an inkling of was between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. All I knew about either was that one played the sax and the other only had one arm. Which is how you keep an eleven year old interested in these things. In 2000, I had the privilege of witnessing the Greatest Democracy In The World™  in-action (see what I did there) from the suburbs of Atlanta (which cemented my love of all things Ralph Nader). And since then I have pretty much been a solid election watcher. Because they are comedy gold. The gift that keeps giving. When it’s not try to scare the bejesus out of you by fielding people like Sarah Palin.

British elections are like British people. Everyone involved or watching seems pretty embarrassed by the whole fiasco. Or at least they are embarrassing to watch. There is a ‘don’t take it too seriously or no one will take you seriously’ aspect to it. I don’t get much out of watching them other than a vague sense of indifference to it all. Having not grown up in the UK and having parents that left a very long time ago, I have no real affiliation to British political parties, classism, the right’s love of tweed nor the left’s loathing of Thatcher. Seriously. Couldn’t give a toss. I actually find it mildly amusing when leftists start frothing at the mouth when she is mentioned. In the same way I don’t get what’s wrong with political correctness (gone mad), immigrants, or anything else the left champions. Except vegetarianism: that I truly cannot abide. Or anarchism. Anyway.

This is not really about elections. It’s more about the dynamics of the ideas of political parties. We all succumb to some idealised idea that our beliefs are right, correct, nothing short of the gospel when in fact they are nothing of the sort and are in fact opinions. Part of the reason I find American elections so compelling is that they spew some of the most outlandish ideas on just about anything, and pretty much demonise the other side for just about anything they can muster. Both sides are guilty of this. One of the benefits of not really having much stake in elections in other countries is that you get a chance to have a modicum of objectivity when looking at these things, rather than turn into a raging mentalist hellbent on the destruction of the smallest idea of an alternative to what you think. In Britain it’s a little bit more simplistic. It usually ends up being an argument about the NHS, the EU and ‘dole scroungers’ and little else. There are of course a few choice moments in elections: the Gordon Brown bigot comment was pretty funny to watch unfold. Since 1997 I have been under the impression that British politics is incredibly centrist, and the days of union busting and strikes are never going to be like they were of old, no matter how much either side wants it to be. Maybe, it might actually be the end of history in Britain. Ha.

The idea that there is a right or wrong in a political debate is pretty silly. I am all for the idea that we sit and discuss and mash out a system that works. You know, a democratic one. No, you silly anarchist, sit down and shut up. Politics should be a discourse and should lead to better government, not just a long drawn out finger pointing contest. With actual results, and maybe a dialectical process that looks at what works and what doesn’t, and meshes these things together and for a result that works for all members of society; well, this may actually benefit everyone.

The current processes of democracy do not work. And they will not work as they are so muddled and influenced by certain strictures of society that the mere notion of democracy is as irrelevant as the ideas it professes so uphold.

There is an election in The World’s Greatest Democracy™; it should be relevant, for all our sakes.

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