I used to blog mainly about politics.
This was ages ago, in internet time, before Twitter and Tumblr–back when my Blogger.com id was in the 30k range. They used to be sequential.
I quit when my son was a baby, before the 2008 elections, because it just became too disheartening.
I registered as a Democrat when I got my driver’s license renewed at 18. My choice was based on two things: that I opposed the death penalty (in Texas. It’s not an insignificant issue there.) and that the 1998 Higher Education Amendments had “Clinton” at the top of the forms.
I switched from Democrat to Green after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I’ve been a registered Green ever since. I think a lot of the Green platform is sort of silly–the Greens attract a lot of anti-GMO, anti-Vaccine, weed-is-gonna-cure-what-ails-ya, toxins! toxins everywhere! types. They oppose all nuclear power generation.
It’s ever-so-slightly better than nothing, though, I guess.
Everyone has that issue that (excuse me, here) trumps the rest. Mine is keeping planet habitable. I don’t feel like the Democrats or the Republicans prioritize it. Their rhetoric doesn’t even allow any sort of honest discussion of the fact that more technology might not be the solution to the problems that more technology wrought in the first place. Therefore, I cannot be a Democrat or a Republican, really.
I have been paying attention long enough to know that I’m never going to find the perfect candidate, the perfect party, the utterly ideologically consistent platform. My choices sort of dwindle down to “who’s least likely to kill me (or my kids) in a direct or roundabout way?”
This is less than ideal, for sure.
When it comes right down to it though, I just don’t actually believe in the system anymore. Not one little bit.
Companies within the global economy have outgrown the concept of the nation state. Participatory democracy in any particular country can only band-aid that fact. Anyone promising economic “change” is blowing smoke. Multinational corporate entities are beholden to no man. Not even the President of the United States. No matter how blustery or wishful he may be.
We are not currently equipped to deal with the reality of the situation. These companies exist outside the very concept of citizenship. It’s not even that they count as “people” legally in this country. It’s that they already are borderless economies, in and of themselves, complete with defense budgets, systems of legal arbitration and police forces, and they don’t have bills of rights.
Your soul has already been sold to the company store.
That game is over.
So, when we’re talking about elections here in the states, it’s Culture War Theater. What brand of president do you want?
I’ve seen a lot of people talking about what the Clinton administration really meant in the long run, but I haven’t seen anyone mention what actually happened in 1996.
No one is talking about V-chips.
Now, sure. No one is talking about V-chips, because no one uses the darned things. No one ever did, really. I cannot even tell you if they’re still in TVs. V-chip legislation was rolled into the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (which allowed 6 to corporations to control 90% of the American media.)
Now, V-chips became a big part of the Clinton reelection platform in 1996, because 1994 is the year that the DNC really, really turned to focus groups to help them put together a campaign (The GOP made the big switch in the “greed is good” 1980’s. Then they freeeeeaked out when the Dems picked it up, too. Shocking, I’m sure.) If you’re old enough, you might also recall that school uniforms were a big deal in ’96. It’s sort of difficult to imagine such shenanigans 20 years later, when we’re all focused on the endlessly important matters, like GMO labels, and who uses what restroom, and whether or not bakers must be forcibly required to make gay wedding cakes.
Now, focus groups are a marketing invention that hinge mostly on honing in on selling you crapola based on issues of identity. Are you the kind of person who buys Gobstopper Buttcream or Bananastand Buttcream? Being the kind of person that does this or that isn’t based on reason or ration or education any of the those things that post-enlightenment republics are supposed to run on. Being a kind of person is group-oriented and performative, and it becomes unthinkingly habitual. You want other people to see you being the kind of person that would do or buy x, y, or z. You want to be part of the x, y, or z club. You integrate it, psychologically.
So when you buy the Apple product, you are literally invested with your money, and you are emotionally invested in having made the right purchasing decision. You then begin a cognitive effect known as “choice supportive bias.” You become a “Mac Person.” Once you are a “Mac Person,” you start to see Mac downsides as insignificant, and Mac upsides are amplified. You give other Mac People the nod of Mac Recognition.
Consumer identity works at an emotional level. It’s not about the quality of the product.
So it goes with being sold on a political party.
You don’t vote Democrat, you ARE a Democrat. Being a Democrat or a Republican becomes less and less about an internally consistent ideology, and more and more about a loose assortment of memetic “concerns,” generally picked because they’re the most novel and shiny in a given election cycle.
In 1996, this was done to play to the swing voters. The Clinton campaign figured out the margin they needed to win. They mined the swing demographic for the issues that swing voters, exclusively, were concerned about. They picked the ones which weren’t being nationally addressed in a political sense, and they then sold it at Clinton appearances. Suddenly, the swing voters felt especially heard by a powerful someone who just happened to be talking about their real, unaddressed concerns, no matter how stupid or inconsequential those concerns were. That year, it was disaffected youth (aka, people my age with our funny pants and depressing music.) Bush did it. Obama does it. This is what they do now.
What has changed in the in the last 20 years is that it broadened from just targeting the swing voters (V-chips! Saggy pants! Who would you want to drink a beer with?) to courting culture war extremists (Hello, Tea Party.) These people actually show up at the polls, compared to swing voters. They’re motivated. The bigger the perceived difference between us and them, the more emotionally secure we are in our “choice” to be an us or be a them.
Courting extremists by uttering their unaddressed anxieties starts to make really good political sense. And unaddressed anxieties are likely (not guaranteed, but likely) to be the least rational ones.
So when someone tells you that you’re a single-issue voter, keep in mind that it’s pretty much your only option. The “issues” we angst over generally don’t form an ideologically cohesive whole–in a lot of cases they are diametrically opposed. You have to pick and choose, if you participate at all.
Just remember that no matter which one you choose, you’re probably getting us a little bit closer to Brave New World and/or Nineteen Eighty Four.
Because a global economy is going to either necessitate a global government, or it’s going to be become one.
Either which way, you lose.