Editorial: Dubya and the “status quo”
Hello, friends, and happy new year.
Now that the trauma of the US presidential election has begun to subside (at least for some), I think it’s time to evaluate how the whole thing transpired and what it says about the future of the US.
The media have put forth two basic interpretations of the frighteningly close election: either the American public wants bipartisanship and a move away from the usual political bickering, or they’re deeply divided. These two depictions of the results leave out much of what’s gone on – the structural weakness of the Texas governorship, the lawsuits, the evident biases in the ways in which votes are accepted and tabulated, the somewhat less-evident conflicts of interest, and the use of the Supreme Court to decide the president for the first time in history. But let’s leave those issues aside for a minute.
The exit poll numbers show both interpretations quite nicely – most of one ethnic group voted for one candidate while those of another went to the other; there were also class- and education-based disparities in the way people voted. The American people also made sure that the legislative bodies in the US are split as evenly as they have been in common memory. But do they really show that the US population wants no partisan rancor? Do they show that we’re really split?
These kinds of interpretations presume that we can speak of an entity called “the American people” that has a unified general will, easily measured, commodified, and delivered to whoever has the most resources. But it doesn’t. “The American people” are an amalgamation of individuals, each with their own needs, desires, goals, confusions, and insecurities about the next four years. So to speak of this unified and/or bifurcated group is a bit ludicrous.
We can, however, talk about the result of this election, and it can be put pretty simply – it will be the same ol’ same-o. In other words, after thirty-some-odd days of media-fueled intrigue and what could be seen as a conspiracy on someone’s part, the new American president will deliver us into four years of mundane America. Everyday life – at least as far as the “American public” will be concerned – will go on in pretty much the same way.
All of the pundits, even before the Supreme Court made it possible to declare Gov. Bush the winner of the election, began tracking “Bush stocks” and “Gore stocks.” Yet, some end-of-year pseudo-rallying aside, all of these stocks have stayed – guess what? – roughly the same. The r-word (recession) has made its first appearance in a long time, indicating that the one thing Americans are usually first concerned with – the economy – is out of the president’s hands, meaning that Alan Greenspan’s interventions aside, things will proceed apace according to the whims of the “free market”.
To me, all this would indicate something we’ve all probably figured out by now: La plus a change, la plus c’est la mme chose. Friends of mine on both ends of the political spectrum have different opinions on what will transpire over the next four years under a Dubya presidency – either it will deliver more economic expansion, or the “two paychecks from poverty” maxim of inequality-haters will manifest itself soon. But they all agree on one thing: the American voters seem to have handed themselves a continuance on “everyday life” as it is.
If this is indeed the case, then the only question for all of us, inside and outside the US, is this: Is the mundane, the everyday, in the US (and by extension, those parts of the world under American influence) something we want to continue, or does it need to be changed? Dubya’s presidency, in any case, will give us the answer.
Journal of Mundane Behavior