The Season of Electoral Fever


Russians elect a president; French presidential campaign in full swing; Republican primaries peak on Super Tuesday March 6. Even Geneva is getting into the act replacing Conseil d'Etat Mark Muller. We are in the season of electoral fever.

What is so exciting about campaigns and elections? There is something dramatic, even athletic about the whole process. Pierre Maudet throws his hat in the ring! Mitt Romney tries to score a knockout on Super Tuesday! The vocabulary of a boxing match is often used to describe the ebb and flow of campaigns. Interviews are brutal, the participants battered. We watch the candidates' feints and jabs. Polling technology can measure crowd reactions to debates second by second much the way judges score boxing matches blow by blow.

There are even categories of political contests like boxing categories. Running for the City of Geneva's Conseil Administratif is not the same as the Canton's Conseil d'Etat. Federally, the Conseil National is not the same as the Conseil des Etats, just as in the United States the city government is not the same as the state government, the House of Representatives not the same as the Senate. And the ultimate heavyweight winner, of course, is President of the United States.

If we understand that campaigns and elections are similar to athletic contests if not theatrical performances, we should ask what it all means. For while athletic contests are clearly for spectator entertainment, political campaigns and elections should be about choosing our government leaders. Politics is serious business. Or rather, there should be a clear relationship between the excitement of campaigns and elections and the actual administrating of the general welfare.

In the United States, public relations companies specialize in running campaigns like boxing coaches or producers of Broadway shows. They tell candidates/fighters/actors how, when and what to do. Can we distinguish between those who will be governing us and their campaign performances? We are, after all, citizens and not merely members of an audience. I would rather be governed well than entertained. We don't need Stephen Spielberg, Mohammed Ali or Meryl Streep as public officials. At one point after the 2008 election, I stopped analyzing the quality of Obama's speeches. So what?

This is the season of election fever at the same time as a period of crisis of governance. There are Olympic medals for boxing victories, Academy Awards for acting performances. We are in desperate need of political results and should recognize the differences, although the elections of Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger have certainly blurred the distinctions.



  • Dear Mr Warner,

    My warm thanks for the content, readability and timeliness of your many posts, which I have been following since I discovered them a year ago. In addition, your career as a teacher and journalist is simply inspiring, and you remain an interesting commentator on Swiss and American politics. Not knowing where else to turn, I feel some shame at offering here the following- rant:

    Something must be done about Cornavin train station, now! Better said, the city centre in general, crime in particular. I'm not impressed by the behaviour of the young "citizens of Geneva", and though I hear this is not limited to my fourteen-year sojourn since 1997, this enforces my point: where are the role models?
    This recent crime wave and the subsequent publicity about tougher rules, more police in town on patrol and in trains, is suffocating. It's un-Swiss, and no results. I will not be inviting any more family or friends to visit me here; indeed, if I had skills or a little money I would return to Canada and not look back. Consider the renovations at Cornavin: groups of black-leather clad meet at the corners while there's nowhere to wait undisturbed for your train (let policemen have coffee, they're paid for their time.)As nominally we live in Switzerland, I see white-haired ladies descending the narrow halway alone, meekly hugging the walls as travellers on cell-phones from the four courners of the earth make their way without the slightest regards for their surroundings.
    Is anyone afraid of the police? They should be; and what about transport tickets? Shouldn't the honour system be scrapped- will anyone admit to being "honourable?" Why do I see passengers, usually young and male, waste everyone's time, sitting near the back of the buss giving personal details to the ticket mafia? I never see them buying tickets, but how can they pay the fines? I can't, and I'm running out of possessions to pawn.

    I wish it were otherwise; I wish there were peace, but what we have is worse than war: fear. I'm grateful for the chance I had to study at La Grande Boissière, ISG for five years, and for the many public services I've benefited from since, but I believe I was living in a fool's paradise. Maybe at least others will learn from this horrible time we're living through.

  • Dear Stephen Anderson, Many thanks for your kind comments about my blog. Your observations about the train station and the situation of security in Geneva in general are well taken and shared by most of the Geneva population. There is an element of a decline in security throughout Europe combined with some poor decisions by Geneva politicians that have led to this situation. How to change it? I do have some ideas, but am not well enough versed in local politics to make concrete suggestions. I continue to be optimistic, however. Again, many thanks for sharing your thoughts. Daniel Warner

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