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.