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The Breakdown of Commonsense in Favour of Partisanship: So call Liberal versus Conservative

December 7, 2009

The Breakdown of Commonsense in Favour of Partisanship: So call Liberal versus Conservative


One of the most disappointing things to watch in the last year was the USA election campaign. It is not because I begrudge the US its democratic right to campaign for its elections but rather in the way that they campaign. The whole campaign was run like a blitzkrieg of advertising slogans and emotional rhetoric. This would be annoying enough for those who have the right to vote but those who do not, it becomes pure irrational noise. Even as far away as Australian people were becoming upset over the prospect of who was going to win the next US election. McCain posters and Obama tee shirts were making their way on the newspapers, television and blogs. It was as if the whole would should stop and pay respect as a mere 6% of its population elected another president. If only it was clean campaign then t would be easy to ignore. But no, that is not the way that they run campaigns in the USA. It has to be emotional, scandalous, absurd and above all persistently hammered to every corner of the globe.


In all this teary eyed adoration and indignant condemnation there was little that could even pass for a solid thought. Instead we had Palin holding a gun verses Obama in a mufti suit (McCain was not really that interesting in comparison). We had flags waving and iconic looking backdrops but little in the way of substance beyond a few catchphrases and talking points. The whole election was reduced down to one of two arguments: Conservative versus Liberal. Yet it was done in such a way that neither parties positions were explained how they were in fact liberal or conservative. What were they conservative or liberal about? Instead we were left with a range of self appointed gurus who put their own extreme spin on the situation. For some this meant that Obama was going o change America into communist state and that McCain was setting up another Spanish Inquisition. For others there was the salivating hope that sweeping away the Bush era would herald in a Secular Utopia where everyone just turned on religious institutes and burned them all to the ground. For yet another group it was a symbolic election where a win for Obama represented a win for all the oppressed underdogs of the world.


For me it matter very little who won the USA election because the battle was like that between Alien and Predator: “It does not matter who wins, we all lose.”


Post election some people have had to face up to some stark realities. Obama was not nearly a ‘Liberal’ minded when it came to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as many believed. There has been no sudden pullout of troops from either nation. In the case of Afghanistan he has now decided to increase the number of troops by the tens of thousands. We are also left with the issue of government sanctioned torture going unpunished. Rather than fulfil most people’s expectations of going after the CIA agents who used waterboarding torture, instead he protected their anonymity and put them beyond the reach of justice.


This may not seem like much in the way of a deep critique of the dichotomy between left and right but it does highlight that neither side can claim moral or ethical superiority as their defining trait. My view is that rather than focus upon what is the mere puffery of an election campaign perhaps it is better to examine policy.

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