Election 2020: The names on the ballot

Wisdom from Michel, our last “rencontre” (for previous conversations, read my Medium blogs, “Voting for a government,” October 1, 2, 2020)

Me: So where we left off yesterday, what are the names on the ballot?

Michel: Signifiers.

Me: Explain

Michel: You know the old saying, “you lose your rights when you vote?” Well, many people… it’s human, really, believe this. Actually a primary value of a democracy is that your rights BEGIN AFTER you vote.

The names on the ballot, these are representatives whom you entrust to govern — that’s the grade school characterization. Our experience tells us otherwise — the names on the ballot are people, yes, good people maybe, but they signify also concentrations of power, status, prestige, ideology.

Me: Go on.

Michel: To manage this aligning so to speak, requires considerable effort so we organize this effort into a political party structure. In France as well as in America.

Me: Let me stop you there. How do you do this with so many parties?

Michel: Our system is not unique. It is based on “coalition building,” what you in America call “compromise.” But on the organizational level, it’s the same really. What is curious is that your country does not provide space for MORE than 2 parties. Why?

Me: We crave convenience?

Michel: I would argue the opposite. By restricting this structure to 2 access points in effect, you are forcing the voter to compromise “in their head.” It must be very exhausting!

Me: No wonder we can’t move past the “cult of personality!”

Michel: But you can! That’s why we in France, well some of us who care about America even superficially, feel so frustrated right now with this craziness.

Me: Is the 2 party structure anti-democratic?

Michel: Here’s where it gets really crazy. In America you lack a party of “the opposition,” right now. Little aggressions added up until one party chooses TO DEFINE itself exclusively as OPPOSED to the other party. ON EVERYTHING!

Me: Yeah, so?

Michel: That’s crazy. Listen: I mean you have two parties squabbling over power while no one is attending to THE GOVERNING which is why you have political party structure to begin with. One side seizes power from the other, screws the other in order to hold onto power, and on and on. GOVERNING gets ignored.

Me: Does the pandemic have anything to do with this? Does the pandemic exacerbate this lack of governing?

Michel: Oui. It was there to begin with.

October 3, 2020

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Rodney Clough

Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.