Friday, July 22, 2016

Stop cheering for politicians

At the risk of cementing my place as a curmudgeon, the National Conventions of the US political parties always struck me as thoroughly bizarre. This is an entirely bipartisan feeling - they're a freakshow.

My overwhelming feeling, whenever it shows the crowd shots, is: who are all these people? Don't they have anything better to do do?

To the Australian mindset, there is something quite unseemly about turning up to cheer for politicians, especially in these degraded times. There is a reason that these events don't take place in Australia. They simply wouldn't pass the laugh test. If you built it, no one would come. This includes people who voted for the candidate.

Let the parties sort out their own tawdry affairs in private, and then we'll vote for whichever of the two repulses us less, if we're minded to do so. (In Australia, you legally have no choice on that last point)

If there is one advantage to living in a democratic age, you at least have the freedom to have open contempt for one's notional leaders without running afoul of les majeste laws or the like. This is fortunate, because the system tends to produce leaders richly deserving of the contempt that you're licensed to have.

Why throw that away for this bunch of clowns? Why act like a subject voluntarily for someone whom it is unworthy to be subjected to? Honestly, if you could actually pick a single person to be ruled by, no questions asked, would either of these two candidates be among the top 1000 people you'd pick? The top 10,000?

The rather visceral reaction I have to political conventions is, I will freely admit, a mostly aesthetic response. It seems like obvious pandering and boob bait for bubbas. Sometimes, some of the relevant applause lines strike home to me. Sometimes, they say things that seem true, and even important or compelling.

But even then, not far beneath the surface is the feeling I have during the few times I've had the misfortune to watch romantic comedies. When watching the sad bits, I sometimes feel brief pangs of sadness. But they quickly get followed by a sense of resentment of the fact that my emotions are being manipulated here, for other people's benefit, and in a crude and obvious manner.

Doubt not that this is happening to you. Even if you honestly think it's a good idea to vote for this candidate. In fact, especially if you honestly think it's a good idea to vote for this candidate.

Now, it is possible that these are generally new and interesting times, and genuinely new and uniquely worthy leaders. A lot of people on the right are really excited about Donald Trump. Maybe they're right to be thrilled.

I would caution you with the following though.

If you're honest with yourself, and remember what you felt at the time, did you not feel at least some similar excitement at Mitt Romney's speech? At John Bloody McCain? When you look back now, are you not embarrassed to have supported these shameless, self-promoting fools? One is a Democrat-lite, and the other took the 'Invade the World / Invite the World' idea so strongly that he probably would have started a war with Russia over the sinkhole that is Ukraine.

If you're a Democrat, for an equivalent test, try and summon up now the same enthusiasm for John Kerry that you had in 2004. It simply cannot be done.

With the passage of time, the raw tribalism goes away, and the sheer mediocrity of the candidates offered in democratic elections becomes strikingly clear.

So if you (like me for sure in 2008, and me to some extent still in 2012) felt some excitement at the time for those clowns, you should feel a little chastened. You might reflect that perhaps, indeed, I am one of the rubes after all, or at least am not wholly immune from rube-like tendencies. Perhaps I just like cheering for my team, and this is what I'm actually feeling right now. Perhaps most of what strikes me as absurd about the other party's convention applies equally strongly to my own.

In related news, November cannot come fast enough.


  1. Or, in other words, see Psalm 146:3-4.