L E M O N W O R L D      R A N T


By Jonathan Lemon
14 December 2004

Fist a confession. I voted for Ralph Nader again.

Secondly, I am uneasy with the simplification of the current “divided America” syndrome. Sure the US is becoming two countries. Wouldn’t it be great if the red states and blue states could all secede from each other and live happily ever after? Sadly it’s not a geographical divide like the map indicates except maybe in some parts of those far off galaxies of the outer bible belt system. We’re all mixed up in this ugly mess together and the so-called “battleground” states like Ohio just have a more even split than most. Thus you can just as easily find a Christian gun-toting gay-hating all-American male in Berkeley as you can a beatnik atheist web designer sipping lattés in Lubbock.

Red states fear the blues states. I’d go as far as to say that now that red states are “in control” blue states fear red states. We hate each other. Hate and fear. That’s the USA of 2005.

Talking of hate, here’s something that bugs me. Why is red, the international color of the socialist movement used to represent Republican states and blue—traditionally the color of conservatism—used for the Democrats? I can only think of one reason... red for rednecks, blue for blue collar. Someone please tell me that isn’t true.

So back to all this hate and fear. Does that mean the system isn't working? Currently we have “US-style democracy”, which Winston Churchill once said as “the worst system of government apart from all the others”. The big problem as I see it is whoever you vote for, the government always gets in.

So what does it take to make a democracy work? Well, first off you need candidates. Call me extreme but I like to be able to choose from a list of candidates who are qualified to rule. You need to take a test before you drive and car or fly a plane. However you don’t need any qualifications to run a country as our current “president” has ably shown. Just be 35 and be a natural born citizen (sorry no cesareans) of the US. That rules me out for a start. To become a doctor you need to take the Hippocratic Oath and put in a good few years of study. I certainly would want my appendix being removed by a lab technician working nightshifts just as I don’t want the world’s most powerful country being ruled by a draft eluding frat boy from Crawford.

Having more than one choice is preferable. In Cuba—that bastion of non-democracy—the joke is why would they want more candidates, they have enough problems with one. Well we have that same problem in the US. In many of the southern states Republicans ran unopposed on Nov 2nd. Of course, just like sex more than two is great. Being able to vote for someone on the basis of possible moral or material issues rather than for the lesser of two evils is always a nice option.

Second, and maybe more importantly you need people to vote. I’m sorry but a 40% turnout doesn’t cut it for me despite it being a post war record. When we’re talking about “government by the people” we're not talking about just the ones who bother to vote. It seems only logical that you should need a majority of the population at the very least, not just the majority of the minority.

We all agree politicians these days talk in clichés, sound bites and commonplace arguments. There is nothing precise or objective in the way politicians present themselves. It’s all a game of manipulating how we get the message. The way we get the message—unless of course we’re one of the elite few who have direct contact with the machine—is of course through the media. And the media no longer even bother to hide the game. They don’t report what the candidates say, they report what they will say and why their strategy team thinks it will be a good idea to say it (usually to win votes in this or that battleground state). As a result, politicians become prostitutes, caving in to mass opinion and dogmatism. I don’t even need to mention the vast amounts of money needed to run for office these days. Ante up and maybe you will get a crumb from the fruitcake.

Elections are now a “win at any cost” preposition. The idea is to break your opponents. Bully them into submission. Make them feel that their vote is wrong. Because of the negative campaigning people don’t know what to believe anymore. More hate and fear. There’s your reason for a 40% turnout. No wonder we’re all disenfranchised, bewildered or confused. If you’re not then there’s something wrong with you and /or you voted Republican.

But if US elections aren’t about issues or morals anymore why do the people who vote bother at all? I’ve got a theory. I know I’ve said some mad a crazy things in my time, but here it is. It’s because it’s a popularity contest based on the shallowest attribute of all….. looks. Not that the smirking chimp-like Bush is a cross between Harrison Ford and George Clooney. But he was easier on the eyes that John Kerry, the tall gangly “intellectual” who looked like his face was melting. That’s why next election the Democrats should run Ben Affleck.

I’ll still be voting for Nader.

Jonathan Lemon

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