Blind Elections

As the first Democrat’s are announcing their candidacy for the 2020 presidential elections in the United States, the country as well as the rest of the world is bracing for quite a show.

Certainly, U.S. presidential elections (and politics in general for that matter) have always featured polarised characters. It seems though, at least from the other side of the Atlantic, that Donald J. Trump’s presidency has brought this to a whole new level.

It thus makes the keen observer wonder, when did the debates about a nation — and the case of the United States, debates about the fate of the world — become prime time entertainment?

Similar points can be made for Ukraine and Turkey, who feature a presidential and municipal election this weekend.

The guy leading the polls in Ukraine is a comedian. His campaign basically consisted of a well-timed reality show featuring him — you guessed it — becoming president!

So in light of the upcoming voting season in many part of the world, here is a proposal to Americans, Ukrainians or Turks from a humble Swiss observer:

Do blind elections.

Hear me out…

Agreed, we don’t have blind elections in Switzerland. In theory, we still know what candidates are competing for office.

In practice, however, ever since the demise of the centre-right populist Christoph Blocher a couple of years ago, the average Swiss citizen is not quite sure, who exactly is in the seven-headed team that runs the country.

Why?

Because they are doing their jobs. Just their jobs. They are executing the policies of our parliament (hence its called the Executive)

And this, for the average citizen, is quite uneventful.

Nobody cares if our ministers go golfing every weekend, what cars they drive, which e-mail accounts they use, whether their wives or husbands have been unfaithful in the past, or how hot their daughters are.

Remember the guy from above? Christoph Blocher, for better or worse, was the single most notable Swiss public figure since Henri Guisan became head of the Swiss Army during World War II.

Blocher’s most notable moment? Someone threw a yogurt at him…

A yogurt!

(Don’t believe me? Check it out here)

Thats it. No impeachment, no FBI investigation, no government shutdown, no public scandal. Just a youtube video featuring a yogurt on a new suit.

Other than that, our politicians are boring. And they should be. It means they are sticking to their jobs.

If they make mistakes — and all people do — let the judiciary check whether the mistake merits a removal from office. There is no need for a public trial by combat.

So to my friends around, who are so invested into the reality show-like politics of their country:

Try a blind election!

No names, no faces, no voices. Just defining each candidate by what polices he or she stands for. And then let the people choose based on their interests, not based on their perception of the candidate’s charisma.

You can still have your yard billboards and TV debates. Just blur the faces and alter the voices.

Tell your politicians, what general direction you would want the country to go and then let them do their boring jobs. If you like the result, re-elect them, if not, try a new guy.

But don’t stick to a candidate because he or she is your gender, your skin colour, or wears your favourite kind of baseball hat.

Give it a try. If you don’t like it, you can always have your show back for the next round.

 

Image: https://boxoffice.hotdocs.ca

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Change VS. Make America Great Again

Trump and Obama

Trump and Obama: Source: http://www.weeklystandard.com

“Trump and Obama are doing essentially the same thing.”

My 90-year-old landlord is convinced I should write my dissertation about Donald Trump. He says it would be “more interesting”. Fair enough.

Instead I’m “stuck” with Obama’s Middle Eastern policy. How he tried to extend his slogan of “Change” into that troubled region by promoting a “New Beginning”.

I marvel at questions like  these:
Why was there a new beginning needed?
How did the ‘new’ look like in the eyes of the charismatic 44th President of the United States?
And what on earth did he refer to as ‘old’? Bush? Clinton? Cold War diplomacy? The New Deal? Slavery?

Then it struck me, sipping my tea at the window and watching my landlord bring the trash bins to the street.

Trump is essentially doing the same thing!

Let that sink in.

The beloved champion of the free world that seduced Europe in his 2008 speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

And then what many on this side of the Atlantic consider an erratic Twitter lunatic on the who starts fires everywhere, and whose ego might as-well bring the end of humanity as we know it.

They are doing the same thing.

Making an un-great America great again or changing America for the better. Where is the difference? For Trump, the past is bad, of course. And for Obama? If everything was alright, there would be no need for change.

Two Presidents. Is this a pattern? Let’s have a look at some past slogans:

John Kerry (2004): Let America be America Again

George W. Bush (2000): Reformer With Results

Walter Mondale (1984) America Needs a Change

Jimmy Carter (1976) A Leader, For a Change

Gerald Ford (1976): He’s Making us Proud Again

Warren G. Harding (1920): Return to Normalcy

James Blaine (1884): Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha

Alright the last one is an honorary mention, though it seems like politics were more fun back in the 19th century.
(Have a look: https://www.presidentsusa.net/campaignslogans.html)

The others all promote change in one way or the other. Promising their voters a departure from the current status quo, which of course is undesirable, seemed to be a common thing.

Just like Trump.

Just like Obama.

Like pretty much every other politician. They rarely promote the status quo.

Or would you vote for “Same old thing with Nils”?

No.

Change sells.

The present is never perfect, and future promises are easily made.

Politicians get votes and voters are inevitably disappointed.

But it wins elections.

Just like Trump.

Just like Obama.

The devil, of course, lies in the details.