Of course, in many democracies, elections focus on the candidates rather than on what they stand for. And in various cultures, possibly for different reasons.
In the US, with its TV stars culture, many voters seem fixated on which hero is going to save them. They must ask themselves, which is the prince(ss) on the white horse and which the villain on the black horse? The classical-Christian dichotomy of G^d vs. Devil seems to hold the terrible Two-Party System in the saddle.
The US is the heaviest divided ever, since the Trump/Clinton race. Britain is almost equally split apart over Brexit or Britin. In these 50/50 politically split countries, at election times, the race to have even the smallest majority becomes subservient to anything else (like truth, honesty, ethics, fairness). It shows a belief in democracy as the dictatorship of the majority. In other words: the Two-Party System is Democracy gone bonkers.
As soon as you ignore the voice of big chunks of the populous, you, for all intent and purposes, place them outside of the political system, you leave them as only resource a call to violence.
The US so-called Founding Fathers (after less reasonably murdering the Natives and importing and enslaving the Blacks) proposed Balances of Power as cure. It’s not working anymore.
The the-winner-takes-all system discourages voters from choosing a third party or independent candidates, and over time the process becomes entrenched so that only two major parties become viable.
The remedy of this either/or system lies in the Art of Negotiation.
By now, the only way to regain the talent of negotiation is to get a multiparty political system. More cumbersome, but democracy is supposed to be more messy and tiring than one person deciding everything.
Learn from the Dutch. Their tiny country has an enormous number of political parties and political stability. Their main motive is that social unrest costs money. They are frugal. Political wars cost money too. And they dislike extremism. Truth lies in between – trampled by vying parties.
Negotiations (should) make everyone a little happy. Politics is not Greek sports, where a few winners celebrate and are celebrated and the rest is not worthy of attention. Bad deal.
The US is the country of win-win, remember? It’s hard to tell with the current polarization, recriminations and condemnations.
Marriages are falling apart in record numbers too. (That is not always bad but the amount is.) Too often it’s my way or the highway. Only I, me and myself having equal say.
Children’s “play” is so frequently beating others up.
Back to civilization, please. Learn and teach to give and receive. (Not give and take. Enough taking already.) The other, generally, is not the enemy.
The left boasting intersectionality and a varied coalition is not enough either. The left needs to work with the right.
(But I won’t go so far as to equate obnoxious men and obnoxious women.)
So, a real win over Trumpism is not a victory and dictatorship by the left. A true triumph would be reasonableness back into the saddle. One rides a horse holding two reins, one left, one right. Birds use two wings, one left and one right. People walk the easiest on two legs. You got my drift.
In Israel, the quest is more for who is the redeemer? Who will save and protect us and which candidate will endanger us? Never mind that much of what happens is not in the hands of the PM anyway. This atmosphere of either survival or extinction slightly increases the volume of praise and disapproval. And the risk of senseless unhelpful unbecoming slander.
The way to stay untroubled, pure and holy in election time is, first of all, to decide it’s not personal. Ideas and principles are more important than candidates. Voters don’t decide on suspects – judges do. Voters don’t say who is OK – G^d does. We only get to vote on policy, not on people.
Secondly, try to decrease the moral and emotional volume. The election is not about ethics. There are no real villains or saints to choose from. Or, in a way, they are all more-or-less saintly – as are we.
Also, the fight is not between the absolute stupid (fatal) and the totally smart (imperative). Most of our lives are not in danger, not from wars, not from starvation, not from pollution and not from inequality and oppression. Am Yisrael Chai. The People of Israel are alive and kicking.
Nothing is as safe as a calm mind, the Dutch Working Class saying goes (kalmte kan je redden – calmness may save you). Try to make light-hearted jokes all the time. (Try: And you think that perfectionism may save us all this time around? Or: Will you sign a pledge that if I vote like that but it doesn’t give the result that you promise, that you will personally finance it for me?) Others might declare you insane but secretly then wish that they could be as relaxed as you. Indignation and anger are strong motivators but can also lead you astray completely. Instead of being incensed (when Bibi is blamed for attacking the press – I beg your pardon, who is attacking who?), react with humor: Those naughty politicians! We should get free relaxation courses for having to digest such stories! But when a politician is made fun of (He’s going to unseat Bibi?), mention something good about him: At least, he takes himself seriously.
A third point to bear in mind is that politics is the venue of lies and deceit. It’s not enough to not believe a word any politician says. We need to search how any negativity and anxiety must be untrue, exaggerated, based on mixing facts with nonsense, truth placed in a false context, etc. To give the speakers the benefit of the doubt, we can acknowledge that, in the heat of battle, smears are bound to be spoken. If you want to stay clean, disbelieve all of it. Reject any negativity people around you or the media tell you about any politician or party. Say, That’s exaggerated. Or, If it only were so simple.
A fourth strategy, keep in mind and propagate that unity and democracy are of paramount importance, more significant than what anyone will want, say or vote. Voting and freedom of speech are great rights and unity is the most important goal not worth destructing for any other ideal. A stupid naive vote is better than no vote. We have more in common and our true long-term interests overlap more than not.
A fifth idea, it’s best to put the spotlight on what you want and on the strong points of runners and parties and downplay anything of the opposite color, like what you don’t want and supposedly weak points of candidates or sides. I once saw a beautiful election time piece by Rabbi Aviner that showed at length that this focus on the positive gives enough information. All the badmouthing and innuendo can be ignored.
So, which are the issues that are worth contemplating? Let me suggest a few. Those votes that:
- Would promote parties willing to compromise to get some of their priorities realized, be good sports and like everyone to have the best life possible – not just “their own.” (The Likud will win hands down, so the question is only: who want to join a Likud government. Or, if the Left and Center can unite, they would win. But will the [male] leaders of these numerous tiny parties be able to reduce their egos, a woman had to ask.)
- Would promote parties that mix idealism (always nice) with realism (save the pipedreams for the academics).
- Would promote parties that will prioritize the fight against: a. exorbitant income inequality and power of the bank robbers that own banks, b. climate and nature destruction and c. stereotyping minorities.
Say out-loud all the time: I love elections. But they are like sex. Mixing them with abuse takes the fun out of it.