September first: US election moratorium over

09.01.04

Back in January, I had made a promise on this blog not to talk about the American election until September, in effort not to bore everyone ad nauseum.

I hope you all found the breather refreshing. But it’s now September, so the election is fair game. And while I don’t plan on turning this into an American politics blog, the occasional mention will probably creep in from time to time in the next couple of months.

Here’s a summary of some of my thoughts to date:

Either-or

First off, I’m really really glad not to be American right now.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t dislike Americans. I don’t hate the United States. But I’m grateful not to have to figure out who to vote for in this election.

The problem with the two-party system – and I’ve ranted about this before – is that they are two-party systems. Either-or. Left or right. One extreme or another.

I’ve always more or less assumed I’d vote Democrat if I were American… but could I really bring myself to vote for the party who is in denial that a war is being fought? Whose idea of Mideast policymaking is to draw moral equivalences between the Palestinians and Israel? Who believes that being politically-correct beats being truly correct? Who blames everything on the catchall culprits of the white and the wealthy, while simultaneously nominating candidates who are – you guessed it – white and wealthy? Who is better at making excuses for terror than at fighting it? A party that associates itself with the far-left wingnuts and makes no apologies for that?

But then, while Bush’s Mideast policies have been sounder, most of the rest of his policies have been disasters. Could I ever really vote for a party who believes that the “right to bear arms” supersedes the rights of people not to get shot? Who pushes for Christian prayer in schools, wants to limit a woman’s right to choose, and thinks that gay people don’t really deserve all the same rights as the rest of us? A party who has made an utter mess of the economy and used foreign policy to distract people from the fact that they don’t have jobs? A party who invaded Iraq under false pretences, because no matter how much I might think that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, there’s no denying that Bush didn’t exactly go about it in the best way. A party who associates itself with the far right wingnuts and makes no apologies for that?

No, the either-or choice is really no choice at all. I honestly think I might be tempted, if I were American, to shirk my right to vote and waste it on someone like Mickey Mouse.

Mud-slinging

Second, like most elections, including our last Canadian one, this has devolved from a debate of ideas into an attack of characters. The Bush team has been merrily attacking Kerry’s Vietnam record, and then dissociating itself from the attacks. The Kerry team has been adopting some of the Bush-is-Hitler crowd to do its dirty work. The personal smears, low blows, and mudslinging are turning off the average American from politics, and it just gets worse every election.

People bemoan the fact that nobody votes, but they never stop to wonder why. I think a lot more people would get involved in politics if it was truly about platforms and ideas. But people are sick of unflattering photos of candidates’ wives, attacks on personal history, or flinging of insults. They’re tired of corruption. And they’re annoyed because candidates keep asking for their votes on the basis that they’re “not as bad” as the other guy. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think that’s good enough anymore. And neither should most people. If it’s true that populations get the government that they deserve, then it’s time for Americans to demand better from their politicians.

Annoying celebrities

From Arnie to Dixie, and from the Boss to Britney, celebrities seem to be increasingly speaking out – or spewing – their political views to anyone who is willing to listen. Arnold Schwarzenegger is, at least, an actual politician, and has the votes and the office to prove it.

But most celebrities are not politicians, nor should they be. Many form their political views in the same way that they get their fashion sense. I’m starting to think that Alice Cooper has a good point:

If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we’re morons.

Cooper, incidentally, is a Republican.

Polarization

Finally, as I’ve noticed on recent trips to the US, the population seems more polarized than ever at the moment. Whoever wins in November is going to piss off half the population, and it will probably be even tougher to reunite the country than it was in 2000. People on the left blame Bush for everything that’s wrong in their lives, and people on the right think that Kerry will make everything go wrong in theirs. It’s easy to get caught up in partisanship; it will be much tougher to build bridges across that divide and remind people that, left or right, they’re all Americans.

In a way, the polarization reminds me of 1995 in Quebec. Federalists and separatists alike maligned, smeared, and hated each other so much that most of us wondered if the province would ever recover. We did, of course. Eventually we realized that we could all just agree to disagree and that the other side didn’t have horns growing out of their heads. But the next referendum will probably divide us all over again. And that’s some of what I see happening in the States.

That’s the saddest part of all. Because in such a bitterly divided election, no matter who wins, everyone loses.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ScottAdler 11.30.-1 at 12:00 AM

I’m just voting NO.

I always tried to live my life as though I would be running for President — never lie, cheat, or steal. Never hurt anyone, never drink to excess or use drugs, never do or say anything that I couldn’t reasonably defend in ten years, but never stay silent on the important things.

I’ve been wasting my time! A former drunk against a former traitor.

I’d move to Canada, but… what’s the point?

Reply

2 Josh 09.01.04 at 8:57 PM

It really doesn’t matter who gets into power. It’s all the same anyway, though I have feeling that if the Dems win, then Canadian politicians will insult them less often.

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3 Tali 09.02.04 at 12:03 AM

I think your summary of Democratic foreign policy was a bit much, Segacs…
I have heard some pretty confused Israel rhetoric from some dems, but not nearly all. The rest of the paragraph reads like a Bush campaign press release, rather than an actual summary of anything Kerry has actually said.

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4 segacs 09.03.04 at 9:06 PM

Just Democrats? I thought I was even-handed in my exaggerations and oversimplifications. But hey, that’s what partisanship is, right? You only see it for one side. Proves my point actually.

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5 Malia 09.03.04 at 10:35 PM

If you feel depressed about the American presidential election think about how I feel! This is the first presidential election that I will be voting in. I’m so disgusted with my choices or lack of that I feel like marking the neither option on my ballot.

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6 segacs 09.04.04 at 7:52 PM

Scott, we don’t have any politicians worth voting for here in Canada either. Election campaigns are no longer about “vote for me because I’m the best” but are about “don’t vote for the other guy cause he’s worse than I am”.

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