By Fionnbharr Rodgers
At least one tenet of Jacksonian Democracy survives in the United States today: that the people should pick their President rather than choice taking place in some smokey backroom parlor. In 1994, this idea was re-branded and taken to the heart of the Republican Party. During the midterm elections of that year the Republicans won the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years based upon a platform named the ‘Contract with America,’ in part based upon Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address in 1985.
The ‘Contract’ promised all the kind of anti-government, neo-liberal economics that we have come to expect from Republicans today.
In 2000, this Republican desire for a straight-talking, plaid-flannel-wearing, Washington outsider was first injected into presidential politics with the nomination of George W. Bush, and each election cycle since it has only become further entrenched. Despite the fact the Bush was the son of a former President.
John McCain and Mitt Romney were both well-established, centrists who found that they could not win without appealing to the kind of evangelical, small town, Second Amendment crowd that Sarah Palin represented. They struggled to court such voters during their respective primaries, and to keep them on board while trying to court independents during the general election.
This affair seems to have culminated with the nomination of Donald J. Trump, who gives voice to the people who believe their country is being stolen from them and that their government is in on it. Many have worked themselves into a fit trying to find sense in this, missing the fact that in US politics there is no sense: it is purely an emotional affair.
People feel that crime rates are rising, so they vote for the ‘Law and Order’ ticket, despite the fact that crime is on a decade long decline. They feel the economy is losing ground, despite constant and steady growth for seven years. Some feel that America is a Christian nation, despite the constitution making so such claim, and the framers stating the opposite, but they insist that their candidate has to have the knees prayed off them.
An interesting thing is that many voters do not believe that a President Trump would actually do the things that he suggests, but they plan to vote purely based on the fact he’s saying them: Trump is a sort of nuclear-option protest vote.
This is part of a clear trend which has seen American politics become more vitriolic and hyper-partisan than a post-conflict society such as Northern Ireland, only without the valid reason.
We should be concerned by this if we know how the world works: globalization is a fact of modern governance. More than ever the countries of the world are tied together, evidenced by the 2008 economic crash, and if the United States is set on such a dangerous path, it could devastate the world again.