The shambles of the American Presidential Election
If we have doubts about those who aspire to lead us they must have been doubly reinforced by the pantomime of the American Presidential Election. The half of me that is American blushes every day when I read the latest hyperbole from Trump or Clinton. I wince at the underlying protectionism of what he says and the mealy-mouthed inconsistencies that she reveals. My eyes water at the spectacle, roundly promulgated by the media, of candidates for the world’s top political job shooting it out at OK Corral. Elections are not shoot-outs.
Nice of President Obama to nip over to Britain to say his piece about Brexit. Looking at his domestic scene, I think he was just trying to get a few hours rest on Air Force One. You can’t blame him. The Congress has made it almost impossible for him to do anything sensible. The intended balance of power between the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives has slumped into an arm wrestle that none can win. Policies have become currency to be bartered for favours. The American dream has truly become a nightmare.
So do voters really get the politicians they deserve? Based on a totally biased sample of my own American family the answer is ‘no’. We are a Mid-West family from an area that used to be thought rustic and backward. Today we look liberal and enlightened, with rather more common sense than appears at either edge of the continent. But we are sad that America is being held up to ridicule and that the world’s policeman is looking shifty and unreliable. Is the system wrong, are the people wrong or what is wrong?
I think the answer is that there has been a dreadful neglect of political education, not just in the United States but everywhere in the Western World. Reflect, for a moment, on the world’s financial situation. Another shambles caused by banks’ customers being financially illiterate. Or the world of technology, now the private preserve of the techies. Most of us are technologically ignorant to the point where we can be duped by the simplest email message. Because we weren’t educated. The same is true politically.
Let’s not consider whose fault that is but rather what we can do to put it right. To get grown-up people to lead grown-up lives we probably need some sort of way of qualifying people as grown-ups. Not an examination of how well they can cram information but a test of how well they process it and use it for the benefit of everyone, not just themselves.
And let us start with the four things that make life worthwhile – health, finance, politics and joy. If we can teach people to think cogently and creatively about these four things the human race will survive a lot longer than the American hustings seem to suggest it will.
Are you up for it?