Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Industry of Politics

Every time there is a presidential election, I find myself wondering about all the accusations that the candidates make about one another, and especially about those directed at the incumbent President. If these things were all true, then standing Presidents would be regularly impeached, and competing candidates would be either imprisoned or hanged.

The ironic thing about the process is that, after vilifying one another in the debates, the candidates smile, shake hands, and maybe even go out for beers. After the election, the loser calls up the winner and offers congratulations. The police are not sent out to make arrests and public executions do not follow each election.

And yet, we of the general populous take all this stuff very seriously. We believe what we hear, especially when it props up what we already believe. We call that legitimate Patriotism. In the religious world, we have a corollary term: Heresy, which generally means telling someone something about their faith that they don't already know.

So elections become more about image, combativeness, and marketing rather than about leadership, integrity, and vision. James Davison Hunter, in his fine book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, describes it this way:

"[Electoral politics] has become an industry oriented far more toward the management of images and the marketing of a candidate than to the propagation of political ideals and policies." (p. 39)

What do you think? Is this true?

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