Ditching the fatalism and pushing for change in politics. Is it time?


A second Sunday link from the Guardian, but only because it makes sense. Granted, the context is British. However, the content applies very much to the United States in general, and to New Albany in particular.

2015 general election: enough of the fatalism. It’s a great time to push for change in politics, by Armando Iannucci

Politicians are fearful, the electorate is confused, but let’s harness the ideas and passion alive in the country

It really says a lot about the state of British politics that the televised leaders’ debate I’m most looking forward to is the one between Russell Brand and Al Murray. The way things stand, it looks more likely than a Cameron v Miliband debate. It also looks the more interesting.

A Brand/Murray smackdown would be hugely serious and relevant since it would go to the heart of what ails the UK’s democratic condition today: whether voting in elections is worth bothering with at all. Russell Brand has spent the past six months arguing the party system is so busted that true and lasting change can only be achieved by turning our backs on it and, come election day, staying at home in droves. Al Murray, on the other hand, embraces the political process by choosing to stand against Nigel Farage as the Pub Landlord, in effect saying that voting counts because it can take real power away from those whom you fear or mistrust.

Taking power away from those we fear or mistrust. Think about that.

Politicians have always been protective about their brand, but a collective caution seems to have overwhelmed them. It’s difficult, despite the policy reviews and speeches, to know precisely what Labour is in favour of. Which spending budgets will they protect and which ones will they abandon to the fires?

Think of this recent summary of local “Democratic” platform principle: “Being physically cleaner, financially stronger, and fundamentally better.” What does it really mean? Has any of it been accomplished? Has the candidate who pronounced it in 2011 been willing at any point during the past three years to seriously examine the words, to place them into context, and to do so in the company or real people, as opposed to unelected back alley boards?

Conversely, NA Confidential has been exploring platform planks for 10 solid years. There is more genuine content here in a month than the local Democratic Party has mustered since FDR’s final term. The trick is learning from it, linking it together, and being able to clearly explain it.

On the Tory side, we know they’ll give us a referendum on Europe but won’t say which side they’ll take. Nor will they supply us with any basic indication of how the laws of maths can deliver us from debt by taking more money from the poor than from the rich.

Will local Republicans even contest this year’s races?

Then there’s the real imponderable: devolution, regionalism, constitutional reform, English votes for English laws. Call it what you will, the stark fact is that on this most fundamental of issues – what form our future democracy will take – we only have vague suggestions from everyone. All the parties want to run the country but won’t say what country it is they want to run.

These, too, are the questions being ignored in New Albany: What kind of city do we want this to be? Is it a pass-through or a stay-awhile? Is it a place to make omelettes, or spend another 200 years staring at the rotting eggs for fear of breaking one?

No doubt policies are up and viewable on websites somewhere. But the stupefying reality is we still don’t feel we know. They’ve had months, years even, to prepare and mighty budgets for media spend, and yet we feel so little the wiser. You get the impression they’d love their manifestos to go out encrypted.

That’s breathtaking. Iannucci has not been to New Albany, and yet he has descended the labyrinth of “Get Smart” hatches, conveyors and secret elevators, all the way into the down-low bunker, where the mayor receives information from the outside world via Maalox the Younger and the Rasputin of Redevelopment.

Can holograms be encrypted?

Is encryption the very nature of the hologram?

Why shouldn’t we abandon our political masters and stay at home? Looking at the polls, no one knows how this thing is going to end up, so why bother? …

… I would argue the opposite, that now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote. With such a fragmented system on offer, nothing is inevitable. Uncertainty may create instability, but it can also generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can.

The truth is, we haven’t been abandoning politicians – they’ve been abandoning us. The main parties have run recent elections focusing on smaller and smaller tribes of supporters in the hope that the bare minimum will squeeze them through.

It might be different if there could be a platform one favors, as built from substance of the sort one might cast vote to endorse, without feeling the need to bathe afterwards. That’s why I cannot favor either of the two local political patronage dispensers, and it’s also why it seems to be the right time to take a stab at such a platform.

The enduring local received political wisdom in New Albany is that voters will reject genuine substance. At the same time, it has not ever been attempted. 2015 strikes me as the perfect opportunity. Vote for the platform, vote against the generator of mistrust, or do both, simultaneously. The strategy works, or it doesn’t.

And at the very least, we will have tried.