Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Animal Husbandry

[reprise from LiveJournal post of April 29, 2008 (has previous comments)]

Okay, I'm pissed. Every election season where there's anything major at stake, it seems that the lion's share of electoral power is given to those who frankly barely deserve it. And I'm not even talking about the "superdelegates."

No, it's that lumpen and easily-led-by-the-nose mass known as the "average American," the "regular Joe," etc. -- the "God-fearing," "churchgoing" resident of the "Heartland" -- who is usually also described/labeled/led by the terms 'swing voter,' 'conservative' or 'moderate' -- which in my observation of politics thus far seems to mean just "moderately prejudiced and intent on preserving the status quo for their imagined benefit/self-protection."

Yeah, I'm a bit of an elitist, one could (and probably will) say -- I believe that people who lack political literacy, cultural literacy, literal literacy and/or accurate (not merely party-spoonfed) issues exposure/knowledge have no business being part of deciding this nation's direction. I do not believe that the uneducated populace can be trusted with the privilege of voting, and this has nothing to do with technical grades and levels of education but with the desire -- or lack thereof -- to eliminate ignorance from one's mind and life. Those who do not try to educate themselves on the issues at hand, and who do not seek out to the best of their ability what there is to be known about candidates and their actual stances and the longterm effects thereof if implemented, are nothing more in my estimation than pawns of party loyalty or cultural/familial tradition.

I do not like the current two-party political system and the antagonistic dualism that it breeds -- but it must be said that of the two parties I detest far more that one which commands the most fervent nominal loyalty, the "my party right or wrong" attitude that barely if ever considers a thought or practical observation that was not bred within its chosen intellectual hothouse of self-validating systems. At the moment I am quite in accord with John Stuart Mill's statement on the subject -- that is, that although it cannot be proven that all conservatives are stupid, it can be easily observed that "most stupid people are conservative." The reason why (this is me talking now) is that they are led by their most base and basic fears -- their concerns for apparent personal financial gain (rather than the less-visible fabric of the general welfare), for security, and for social conformity of 'creeding and breeding' and all that surrounds it. These are lower-level needs, as per Maslow et al, and if it is true (as some delight in airing about) that a conservative is a liberal who's gotten mugged, then is that not a blatant regression into fear and not an advancement in actual awareness? Post-traumatic paranoia, that's all it is -- hardly something to chortle smugly about.

As for moderates...well, as I said -- "moderately prejudiced." Moderately afraid of the unknown and unwilling to deal with its existence as real and equally-valid life; moderately clutching onto their privileges of class, race, dominant culture and/or universally-assumed religious faith; moderately suspicious of those not like themselves, and moderately without the cultural education or overview to see people as conscious individuals rather than as threatening cloned units of the designated Other.

(Which still doesn't entirely account for the existence of Log Cabin Republicans, but that's far more about class+wealth than it is about actual sexuality...)

Does nobody see that the oft-cited "beer test" of potential Presidential popularity is all about reassuring the least-educated social stratum of voters of one's normalcy (itself a statistical illusion) and implied non-superiority -- pandering to their fears and worries, condescending to their folkways, with no relevance whatsoever to the actual tasks of clear-sighted national and international leadership? I don't trust a candidate who's too comfortable with the touted "red-blooded American" in bar, bowling alley or shooting range, and who deprecates too much the professional and intellectual types upon whose intelligence and advice hris prospective presidency will actually rely -- let alone hris own intelligence. It's in the same league as baby-kissing, except that babies can't vote (and don't own guns or drink beer...). Personally, I'd rather see a politician act natural for hrimself, for good or ill, than put on a gladhanding show in the sticks -- and were the right to vote dependent upon one's being a member of the informed citizenry (rather than the indoctrinated, unexposed or otherwise "unwashed" masses), then there'd be far less of a created need for this sort of appealing to the lowest common denominator. An American President, by the known details of hris job and its scope, is not primarily a bowling nor drinking buddy to the American Everyman (Everyperson?) why should hse be compelled to pretend that that's where hris heart and ambition truly lies?

Of course......were the Electoral College abolished, there would probably be less of a created need to go kissing ass in Middle America, seeing as the impact of high-population (and more culturally diverse) areas is muffled and that of sparsely-settled (and more culturally isolated/insulated) ones inflated to satisfy the old paranoia (again) of maintaining individual states' rights. The whole circus of voting goes on as it does because of old compromises that simultaneously elevate and disempower the average "common man" voter, and that discourage citizens from having an actual array of candidates among which they can choose by their consciences and have some chance of satisfaction in the result (as per multi-party instant-runoff voting). That's another thing that needs changing, and will probably be easier to implement than my own "elitist" idea of only letting people vote who have some real idea what they're voting about. I'm in favour of a literacy requirement and preferably a Constitution Test requirement before one can vote in any elections that affect the national level of politics and lawmaking. And more than that, I'm in favour of requiring that anyone who votes must maintain or seek current exposure to articulate political opinions besides those of their nominal party or philosophy.

Even and especially if you can't stand what stands in opposition to your own beliefs (and particularly on the most controversial and emotional of issues), you owe it to yourself as a 'political animal' to keep abreast of it and be able to explain, understand and refute it (if need remain) intelligently and civilly rather than out of a kneejerk aversive reaction. This is the essence of an educated political citizenry, and essential to cultivate in any nation that would not be prey to demogoguery and mob rule of the majority over all their fellows. Whatever group or party would stand against such mental exposure is afraid of losing its hold over the faithful -- and I use the religious term intentionally, as it's the same basic issue. No one's opinion can be considered anything more than an opinion, nor should it be given any more power than that in the sphere of political action, unless it is an opinion formed and firmed of actual considered alternatives.

And if you don't like that, then you can just keep your opinions out of the voting booth and off the national stage. If you want political influence, then you have to trade in your ignorance and cultural wouldn't that be refreshing to have as the rules of the game?


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