Friday, September 12, 2008

Fear Factor: American voters

Steve Burgess: Talk about the importance of the US election is just a smokescreen. Their campaign is just more compelling than our own. As a spectator sport, there is no comparison. There's more at stake in the US race. The principal players are larger than life. And behind it all lies the Fear Factor, the unpredictable element that has turned every recent US election into a potential horror movie: the American voters. There's no telling what they'll do.

At this point, if you're not paranoid about US voters, you haven't been paying attention. We depend on them to do the right thing, but it's like having your investment portfolio handled by an insane uncle. In order to properly understand American presidential politics, you must first disconnect your common sense receptors. Factors and developments that would seem to have obvious consequences turn out to mean nothing, or even have the opposite effect than what a sane person would expect.

The current Oval Office tenant was elected and re-elected by campaigning as a guy you might like to have a beer with. Now comes the Republican vice-presidential nominee, hailed by right-wing pundits as being "someone just like us." It is the boundless narcissism of many average voters that they believe themselves to be ideal models for a potential president. The Canadian election campaign may not be thrilling, but at least it will be somewhat comprehensible.

Joseph Heath: Whereas the left wing tends to attract bleeding hearts, the right wing tends to attract jerks. Of course there are all sorts of fancy intellectual reasons why one might want to shrink government, reduce taxes, and curtail entitlement programs. But a lot of people support these policies simply because they don't care about anybody but themselves. They are, in other words, self-interested jerks. Our proximity to the United States has proven extremely unhelpful to the Right here in Canada, simply because the tolerance for jerks is so much higher south of the border. Image source here.