Thursday, March 22, 2012

Election Year in America

Mitt Romney’s quest for the nomination of his party got another boost in Illinois this week, but it appears to be an increasingly quixotic quest at best. Aside from the likelihood that the debilitating primary combat may have significantly diminished the value of the Republican nomination, the debased state of American politics (thanks in no small measure to the antics of the candidates and their compatriots in Congress) may well render even the ultimate prize of the Presidency pretty worthless. Granted, even the diminished President of an escapist society in increasingly dangerous denial about the nature and scope of its problems still gets his ruffles and flourishes and lots of other honors and perks (many of them for life). But is it really worth the price? By which I don’t just mean money. Indeed, money appears to be no issue at all for Romney, who seems to have a lot more money than seems even remotely just and who, presumably, has only gotten where he is in the contest because of his utterly unseemly financial advantage – an advantage, however, which he will not have to anything like that extent in the General Election. Perhaps the only long-lasting lesson from Romney’s financial advantage is its confirmation of the old adage, “Money can’t buy love.”

While in Rome these past few months, I often lamented the European news media’s greater attention (in comparison with US media) to Sports – reflecting, of course, European culture’s clear obsession with soccer and other such strange diversions. Coming home, I marvel at the American media’s apparent obsession with presidential election politics. I don’t think the average American is anywhere nearly as obsessed with politics as the average European seems to be with soccer. (Even less likely is a widespread interest in the nuances of public policy). But I do think that both the appallingly vacuous character of the campaign and the comparably appalling character of the media coverage do in some way reflect the increasingly bizarre way in which we as a society have come to filter reality. So there is little reason to suppose that the summer-autumn competition between Obama and Romney (a competition between almost archetypical representatives of their two respective out-of-touch elites) will be any more illuminating, any more substantive any more relevant to resolving our most pressing problems than the present primary circus has been.

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