So far I’ve been following this year’s presidential election like a toddler in church.
I don’t know if it’s because I think the result is already preordained, or that I’ve just had my fill of manufactured partisan outrage at meaningless gaffes, but I’m increasingly starting to think that participating in American mass politics is like living next to the freeway.
I’m not one of those people who thinks that all the candidates are the same, and that our choice doesn’t matter. I’m still voting (for Obama, obviously. Viva socialism!), and I’m reasonably familiar with each candidate’s narrative of the problems facing the US and their proposed solution.
I just don’t know what more genuine information I can gather at this point. American political campaigns are basically pantomimes, where we zoom in on the minutae of each candidate’s prescriptions and podium utterances, overlooking the fact that anything that will actually happen in the next four years will be a combination of compromise, serendipity and expediency. Even if Obama is a socialist Muslim, even if Romney hates poor people, their ability to meaningfully implement these agendas is severely constrained by our political system.
Again, I’m not saying their policies don’t matter. They do. I just think American political campaigns are not a particularly good way to assess what will actually happen if either becomes president.
I’m reading Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes right now, and I loved his description of the 1930s rise of the far right:
The past to which they appealed was an artefact. Their traditions were invented.
There’s a little bit of 2012 in that phrasing, isn’t there? Only now it’s not only the past that’s invented, but the future too.