The Shallow World of Politics
By: Paul Murano – November, 2010
Okay, so Republicans have picked up major gains in this midterm election. Is this something conservatives should celebrate? Does it mean the country is turning right? Not at all. It is a pattern that has been happening for decades. There are basically two reasons people win major elections in America: charisma and non-incumbency. Let’s take a look at both.
Regarding charisma, if you take away the one-third of voters that will always vote liberal and the one-third that will always vote conservative, the remaining third is who decides elections. In presidential elections this third invariably votes for the more charismatic and attractive candidate.
Check it out for yourself; since the John F. Kennedy era when TV became popular, the more “presidential” looking candidate has always won. And this translates into possessing the two H’s – height and hair, as well as an ability to connect. Shallow but true. Gone are the days when a Teddy Roosevelt or an Ike Eisenhower, or anyone who has considerable girth or is follicle challenged can win a major election. If Scott Brown looked like Karl Rove do you think he would have taken Ted Kennedy’s (I mean the people’s) seat? The stoicism of a Lincoln and the humility of a Washington could not win either today. In our materialist culture that emphasizes the physical and emotional we want to be proud of who represents us, not necessarily for the substance of what they stand for but on how they might appear in pictures and in sound bites.
And when it comes to non-incumbency, this is a dynamic that simply indicates people are unhappy with their lives. It’s cathartic to blame politicians. As a result the aforementioned middle one-third will side with the left in one election cycle and then the right in the next, being ideological pendulums that continuously hope that “throwing the bums out” will somehow cure their own disappointments.
What people today do not seem to understand is that political solutions will never solve philosophical problems. America has been fighting an intense philosophical war for the past four decades, and changing parties in power alone will do nothing to bring about peace. The cultural left and right see life very differently through lenses that color their understanding of reality. Politically with each election cycle this nation will continue to be locked into a pendulum-like existence of discontentment that leads to nowhere, until we diagnose the problem properly. One cannot treat the disease if the cause is misunderstood.
It is imperative that a national effort commence to honestly and objectively examine the factors involved in why people come to hold such contrary premises about life that inevitably lead them to see reality so differently. We must seek to understand the influences that contribute to this bizarre phenomenon that metaphorically leads people looking at the same object to disagree about whether it is white or black. When it comes to justice some people see it as something we must conform to while others see it is something we can create. Truth and goodness is seen by some to be independent of ourselves and discovered and by others as something that can be defined at the discretion of our collective will. These premises are irreconcilable.
What causes these contradictory views?
Are the factors psychological? Are they the results of certain experiences early in life? Why do some people to see objectivity in Fox News while others see it in MSNBC? How can some see life as a right while others see it as a choice?
We are a divided nation on a much deeper level than politics; and we can no longer have an attitude of resignation about things that go deeper than the political level. A unified nation shares one culture, which is founded on common practices born out of a shared language and philosophy of life. Until the cause of the culture war is truly understood no political solution or person will make much of a difference.
Paul Murano taught theology and philosophy at Assumption College and Northshore Com. College. He is also former co-host of The Paying Attention! radio program on WCAP and Host “Beneath the Surface” on Burlington Cable Access. You can E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com