Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Avoiding U. S. Politics and Preserving Sanity

Political campaigns, particularly U. S. style, can be annoying (if not depressing).  Another two months yet before the U. S. Presidential election, to be filled with hyperbole, accusations, media hype, gotcha moments, and manipulative TV ads.  As former Canadian Prime Minister (short-lived) Kim Campbell once remarked, "Elections are no time to discuss serious issues".  When asked this year about U. S. election politics, former U. N. ambassador Stephen Lewis described them in one word: "Preposterous".

My task is how to avoid the noise as much as possible.

It should be easy.  Don't watch TV or use the internet.  That, however, is easier said than done.  I pretty much confine U. S. TV watching to TCM, PBS (which have no paid commercials), and CNN.  I've cut my viewing of CNN in half, usually only glancing quickly, before deciding whether to subject myself to more self-serving political "debate".  For two weeks I watched the Olympics on Canadian channels CTV, TSN, and SNETP, completely excluding NBC.  (This worked well, because as Canadians watched major events live, the U. S. audience waited until evening prime time to see the same on a delayed basis).

As far as the internet, I've unfriended conservatives and reduced liberals to "only important" updates.  I generally agree with liberals, but they also like to pursue irrelevant matters, and are equally capable of reducing discussion to name-calling, overstatement, and simplistic solutions (if only the 1% would pay up).

I know others shut out this process as well, one of the reasons for low voter turn-out.   The reality is that many issues are complex, involve multiple interests, and can only be resolved by trade-off, negotiation, and consideration of both costs and benefits over the long term.  Elections are conducted on sound bites, easy solutions, identity politics, emotion (mainly fear), and short term events. Therefore, we get theatre (mostly tired and uninspired), instead of substance. 

Not long ago, the election period started in February and was over in November.  Unfortunately, the process is now twice as long and twice as tiring and banal.  


  1. Just out of curiosity, did you take in the Biden / Ryan debate? If so, do you have some feedback?

  2. I watched a small part of the Biden/Ryan debate. I was particularly disturbed by Ryan's comments that decisions by "unelected" Supreme Court justices could be overridden by Congress, particularly when their decisions were at odds with his Catholic beliefs. Someone should tell him that it might take a Constitutional amendment to do this; that the U. S. has a secular government; and that Vice Presidents take an oath to defend the Constitution. Obviously, I have a much higher opinion of Supreme Court justices (liberal and conservative) than I do of politicians.