08 November 2012

Thoughts on the US Election

I think, speaking as a Canadian, that those of us outside the US really do not have a real grip on exactly how divisive the American political situation is. As a result, we may inadvertently step into the muck simply because we can’t imagine how much our American friends have invested in the political situation, how deeply these things are felt south of the border. The whole thing looks familiar enough: you listen to the debates, read up on the issues, choose someone to vote for, go to the polling station, and cast your vote then wait to see what happens. The reality, however, seems to be quite a bit different … in the details of the process, certainly. (An *electoral college*? A senate that can have a majority that isn’t the same party as the guy in charge of the country? Confusing.) But it’s more than that.

The biggest difference is in the tone of the discussions. It goes on and on and on, for one thing … and every election has some mudslinging and rumour mongering, no matter where you are. But I’ve had to hide the Facebook feeds of my good American friends simply because I was overwhelmed by the level of anger and wildly overstated rhetoric in the posters and articles and comments … things that, judging by the media coverage I’ve followed, are pretty much run of the mill for a US election campaign. We believe in free speech too, but a lot of the stuff that is routinely thrown around in American political circles would get you into court for libel or defamation if you said that kind of thing in Canada. I’ve been absolutely shocked by the tenor of the discourse leading up to and following the election. It’s so … so … impolite. So rough. So full of wild rhetoric. And everything I am saying here applies to both sides.

Up here, after the election everyone just keeps on talking much the same as they did before, because hey, one set of politicians are not that much different than the next set: they all try, and they do have differences of course, but the system is big and you don’t turn the Titanic on a dime, and complaining about politicians of ALL parties (even the ones you voted for) is about as much a national past time as complaining about the weather.

American politics, though, is just too hot to handle, even among friends, it seems.

The world’s got lots of messes. It really is up to individuals to do the best they can to make things better where they are. Politicians - no matter how much we might wish for them to do more - can only do so much. It’s each of us helping our neighbours, being kind to those we interact with daily, reaching out to those who need a helping hand when we have one to offer … that’s what really makes a difference in this world. And that’s something we can do no matter who sits in the fancy chairs in the big buildings in the capital.

And, I bet it’s something we all agree on, too!


  1. I live in a "nice" corner of the US. While many people are very passionate about politics, most are fairly civil. Thank God. But beyond our "nice" bubble, I'm afraid I don't see the same civility. It scares the bejeebers out of me to see the class warfare and hatred toward other types of people.

    Thanks for the view from the north!

  2. Well, it's encouraging to hear that there are at least pockets of civility! The news sure doesn't make it look that way, but of course, they have a vested interest in making everything seem catastrophic.

    Except, of course, things that really *are* catastrophic, those they probably try to cover up.

  3. Just found your blog tonight and am zipping through it, reading selected posts (mostly those dealing with The First Book).

    U.S. political "discussion" has gone downhill with each and every election cycle beginning when Jimmy Carter ran for his 2nd term and Ronald Reagan scored his first term. In 1980. I've been voting since just before then (they reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 in the '70s) and have been a careful observer of not only the political stances of major candidates, but their tactics.

    A Supreme Court decision two or so years ago, "Citizens United," decreed by a 5-4 margin that corporations are "people" and, as such, can spend their *own money*--however that's defined--on campaigns, supporting or opposing selected viewpoints or candidates. This made the 2012 elections the worst in history as well as the most expensive b/c of all the corporate $ sunk into them.

    There is a grass-roots movement in the U.S. for "Citizens United" to be outlawed on a state-by-state legislative basis (because the judicial route would involve the same Supreme Court that ruled on it agreeing to take a second look; chances being slim and none--and there is no executive route for this action). This will take several years, unfortunately.

    The poor understanding most Americans have of both logic and science also plays into this partisanship. If So-and-So says X on my favorite TV channel, then He Must Be Correct and No One Else Knows Anything! And it just keeps getting narrower and narrower, with partisans talking amongst themselves and no one talking across the divide.

    Where most of the population lives.

    Thank you for noticing that the country has, by and large, gone mad.


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