Election? What election?

I hate elections. And I particularly hate the US presidential election. Try as I might, I just cannot work up the slightest enthusiasm for it. Or even the vaguest smidgeon of interest. I ought to feel guilty about that but I don’t. Try as I might to ignore the saturation coverage, it’s unavoidable, and irritating the hell out of me.

It’s not as if I hate politics. On the contrary, I’m enormously interested in politics. Just not the party sort.

I know I should pay attention as the outcome of the US election will affect us here in the UK, and indeed everywhere else on the planet. But the reason for my lack of interest is that regardless of who wins, the president will still get in. And whichever one it is, I don’t expect US policy towards the rest of the world to really change. America will still continue to be boss of us all and do what the hell it likes, regardless of how it will affect other nations and peoples. So – no change. Although I’d love to be proved wrong. So, I’ve spent the last 10 months not reading the coverage in the press and I won’t be staying up to watch the results tonight. In the morning, I expect to shrug my shoulders and say “so what?”.

My attitude is probably shocking to many. But I feel little different about elections here. Whoever you vote for, the government still gets in. I think part of my disillusionment is to do with two-party electoral systems, which inevitably polarise voters and if neither party really represents you, then you have a limited choice – vote for the party you hate least, vote for the party that is closest to your own beliefs and ignore the bits you feel uncomfortable about, vote tactically (possibly for a smaller party) to keep out the party you hate most or not vote at all.

Since I returned to the UK, the latter has been my preferred option. I loathe New Labour (and wasn’t mad keen on the old lot either) but hate the Tories even more (I have vivid memories of Thatcher in power). And the other parties are not really in the running.

Funnily enough, when I lived in the Netherlands, I used my vote. I wasn’t allowed to vote in the national elections, as a foreign resident, but I was permitted to vote in the European elections and did, because I’m pro-European, and I was also able to vote in the local elections – in the Netherlands having the local vote is seen as important because it has a direct influence what happens in your local area and giving foreign residents the right to vote encourages inclusion and a sense of community. It helps that the Netherlands has a multi-party, proportional representation system, which means there is also a stronger likelihood of finding a candidate to vote for who represents something close to your beliefs. And the PR system means that your voice will be heard to some degree.

Coming home meant returning to the same old, same old and I just don’t care. So shoot me.

I’m sure I’m not alone…

4 thoughts on “Election? What election?”

  1. NickClayton

    Inevitably if Obama’s elected he’ll be a disappointment as would Kennedy have been if he hadn’t been assassinated before he had time to let his supporters down. I also think there’s far too much focus in the UK on US politics. We are part of Europe, although if somebody could figure out a way of towing Britain to the Caribbean I’d support that.

    But that’s not the same as saying who wins the US presidency isn’t exciting or important for the world. I remember thinking it made little difference whether Gore or Bush got the job. I think at least the people of Iraq would now beg to differ. You can’t be sure Gore would have ignored the UN and invaded, but it seems less likely. And the same goes for a whole series of other issues.

    The world with Obama as president might be safer, with Bush III it certainly won’t be.

  2. I can’t disagree with you, Nick!

    Certainly the UK focuses far too much on the US when it should be looking across the Channel. I think it’s partly because of a shared language with the States. Those of us who have lived in mainland Europe perhaps see the need for the UK to have greater affinity with the rest of our continent, but inevitably the general attitude here is one of bashing the EU and having no real understanding of what actually powers it.

  3. I guess it’s another way of looking at the old argument: one of problems with democracy is that the kind of people who seek power are exactly those who shouldn’t be trusted to wield it. I’ve just read Toby Young’s NY book, and in between all the celeb-spotting he gets his PPE hat on and offers a pretty interesting discussion of Tocqueville’s critique of American democracy, which, again, deals with similar problems.

    If I had more balls my lack of faith in politicians and governments would drive me to a stronger libertarianism. But I’m a typical, hypocritical Brit who can’t stand big, bossy governments but at the same time is tremendously attached to ideas like free universal healthcare. Until someone invents a way of making socialist systems (or libertarian anti-systems) really *work*, we’re stuck with Churchill’s ‘least bad’ option – parliamentary democracy.

  4. Indeed – I realise how lucky we are to have the NHS, for all its faults and problems. It is clearly envied by others, judging by the amount of health tourists the UK attracts. I’d hate to see it go if we ever switched to another way of running this country. But our political system is, as you say, the least bad option under the current circumstances. I long for something, different and better. We could certainly start making the move toward PR. I see myself as British rather than English but it irks me that we have no English Assembly of some sort while the Scots, Welsh and Irish all have a degree of self-government. And then there’s the wretched Mid-Lothian question. None of this works properly and then there’s the state becoming more intrusive into people’s private lives in so many ways. Scary stuff.

    Maybe I should move to a Pacific island. Preferably one with broadband.

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