Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You're Strange. But in a Good Way

Over at the Weekly Standard, Dean Barnett reviews Red! Blue!, D. Quinn Mill's novel about a civil war between Democrats and Republicans. He concludes by pointing out how politically aware people are completely clueless about the rest of the population's indifference to politics:
BUT WHERE MILLS STUMBLES is in his assumptions about American political passions. If you're reading this story, you're strange; strange in a good way, but strange nonetheless. You're by definition a high-end consumer of news. Few Americans have ever heard of, let alone often read, political magazines or websites.

Most Americans maintain an attitude towards politics that is best described as benign indifference. Even when the Bush-Gore battle hung in the balance, concerned partisans did not take to the streets in significant numbers. When the Supreme Court put an end to that struggle, there were some delirious Republicans and some despondent Democrats. But most of America shrugged its shoulders and began looking forward to the second season of Survivor.

There's a good explanation for this. On the global political menu of ice cream flavors, if we called George W. Bush vanilla and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad New York Super Fudge Chunk (with extra nuts), our elections give Americans a choice between vanilla and French vanilla. Elections matter and ideas have consequences. But the American political system has already worked out the biggest questions--democracy, free market capitalism, individual rights, suffrage, etc. Even in the most polarized of times, the differences between the parties aren't so stark as to warrant a manning of the barricades. That's a very good thing.
UPDATE: Re-reading this reminded me of a wonderful line by a British comedian whose name escapes me. His quip was explaining the U.S. political system to fellow Brits:
Like Britain, the United States has two legislative houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is like our House of Commons, and the Senate is like our House of Lords.

Again, like Britain, the United States has two major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans are like our Conservative Party, while the Democrats are like our Conservative party.
The United States is, by comparison to the rest of the world, a very conservative place.
A situation that drives many people I know and love to drink.

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