The Middle Brow - choosing your politics

By Emma Plant

When traveling North America a few years ago, I crossed paths with a passionate, Republican Jew who was fired up with news of the upcoming (pre-Obama) Federal election. "I am going to move Down Under if the Democrats take seat," he said. "This country will go down the proverbial sink."

To his dismay, a Democratic figurehead did indeed take that Presidential seat. As we are all accustomed now, the first black president, Barack Obama, stood to a history-making position. Hereto, since 2009 a great deal has transpired. Not only has Obama’s grey hair flourished, his notoriety has increased as well and, yes, the country has gone down the proverbial sink

While clear-minded people would be hesitant to attribute that all to the president's doing, the pressing presidential campaign is sure to make a right mockery of his position. Thankfully, for him, the Republicans are doing an alright job of mocking themselves.

There stand four choices for those who err on the conventionally conservative side of politics: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Politics, as with all manner of public life, have gotten very personal, and it's hard not to read into the state of affairs (exposing frailties, faults and personal financial positions with abandon) without feeling sullied.

As the race to see which Republican will take on Obama come November 6, the primarys are reaching their gritty, messy zenith. This week they reach Florida, home to Jerry Seinfeld's fictional parents.

On the streets, much like recent Australian elections, Americans are somewhat dismayed by the lack of viable solutions to their nation's bigger issues; the campaigning is clouded by the small stuff. The elephant in the room is the economy. Public debt, unemployment, military expense... overarching ideology almost gets lost in the mess. Who can be trusted? Who makes sense? 

Which begs the question: How, in fact, do we discern what our political bearings are amidst the clamour of competing voices in a 24-hour news cycle?

Nowadays, it seems, it is not as simple as lefty-loosey and righty-tighty, a matter of subscribing to more conservative notions or hip-to-the-jive evolved, liberal thought. Our own, internal government has its role to play in our choices, and we should be mindful of how it is being shaped and formed.

You might think; ‘Arghh, politics shmolitics! Who cares?’. Well, actually, you do. We all harbour some form of political consciousness, awoken at times and dormant at others. It helps us make decisions. And the media has a mighty role to play in its state of play as much as those with whom we share dinner party conversation or a church pew.

A new government on the horizon glows like an immaculate conception in the hearts of the educated and the ignorant. ‘The old King is dead, off with his head! Humpty fell off his wall and he couldn’t be put back together.’ Perhaps the politics of this new leader and their party will marry with my own inherent ideologies, we think.

It is what makes up these ideologies that is so perplexing and unnerving. We observe different parties representing, usually, a derivative thread of one base notion: the Christian fundamentalist, the staunch neo-liberal, the ecologist, the family advocate and the economically driven. But above all these, lost in the mire, is the grander notion of a nation: the overarching and inspiring What We Stand For. That which is embodied in the Constitution.

Today’s socio-political climate does not mirror past years. Minorities are increasingly vocal as the news cycle demands what's new and controversial and our Capitalist culture has seen us become acquainted with with Zeitgeist, which tempts us with its shiny new ideas. 'Out with the old, in with the cool!', we think, bored with how things have always been. It's not a generational thing; it's human.

North America is famous for being a "Christian Nation". The constitution is intrinsically founded on the doctrine of the Bible. The preceding presidents to Barack Obama (all 43 of them) claimed to be God-fearing Christians. Meanwhile, it's reported that the majority of Americans still consider religion when choosing who to vote for.

Much like we witness Islamic countries practicing their faith daily and politically through Sharia Law, or in Buddhist countries where separation cannot be made between culture and religion, historically North American states have operated with religion not compartmentalised, but incorporated into the everyday.

In the home of extremism (Americans do everything BIG), it appears that there are a few constants in what drives the average Joe's political compass. The desire for safety and security almost always trumps other needs, particularly at times of unrest, and we are right to pursue them for the sake of friend and family. It's likely votes will sway according to these needs.

But at what cost leaving behind national virtue for the sake of offending a personal sensibility and sense of security (for it is a 'sense'; nothing, we know, is certain)? As Benjamin Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

See also:
Republican candidates on the issues @ BBC
President of 'This nation, under God' @ Qideas

Emma @ Girl With a Satchel


hero said...

The most bizarre ways to choose a leader