In the United States we’ve seen the meteoric rise of the ‘celebrity politician’. The ultimate examples of this are action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger and reality TV star, real estate magnate and fake tan enthusiast Donald Trump. Both were ‘yuge’ celebrities in their own right before perusing a political career. Both to varying degrees would have been written off at the starting blocks if they weren’t already stars. The only thing that outweighs the power of celebrity is the deep allegiance to either the Democrats or Republicans. It’s a cultural norm to pick a side and stick to it, no matter what happens. The same is in evidence in Britain. Most people, especially in older generations, have already picked their teams before any policies are so much as hinted as. But is this good for the democratic progress?
Back home in New Zealand we’re not so fussed on voting people into political office because they played a cool killer robot or yelled a memorable tag line on a reality show. We pride ourselves on being honest, low key and loyal. So much so we even have a song by national treasure Dave Dobbyn that we all drunkenly roar after the rugby, at our cousin’s wedding or outside the kebab shop on K Rd that is simply called ‘Loyal’. Loyalty is generally perceived as a good thing and it mostly is, but not when it comes to politics.
Considering yourself loyal to a political party works against us because we base our choices on emotion not policy. In an ideal world we should consider every policy a political party puts forward from a completely objective standpoint. I have spoken to many people who instantly write off good ideas because it didn’t come from their preferred leader or act constantly salty because “their” party lost. We have reached a point in politics where a major election strategy is simply bagging the opposition. What does the future hold if politics continues down this path? In three years’ time are we going to see Jacinda Ardern and Bill English weighing in on the campaign trail, sporting silk dressing gowns and shit talking each other’s mums? If you plan to oppose everything put in place, regardless of how it benefits the country because your faves didn’t make it to government, you’re going to have a miserable and frustrating three years.
Political parties aren’t sports teams. Nor are they supposed to be celebrities or entertainment. They have a pretty important job, and that is to ensure a country that functions and works for all its citizens which is why it is so important not to ‘have’ a party like you ‘have’ a rugby/soccer /hockey team. You’re not supposed to be loyal when they screw up, you’re not supposed to stick with them when they become apathetic or unfair and you’re definitely not supposed to blindly champion their every utterance. So save the unwavering adoration for the people and organisations that deserve it and fix our political landscape with the cool gaze of your judgement.
Support policy, not personality.