Gay marriage has been legalised in all 50 states of America. Jubilation is conquering the social networks. Celebrities are popping open extra bottles of champagne. The religious and conservative are bemoaning the imminent destruction of the country, if not the world.
My view? None of this matters… and that was always the point.
Gay marriage is part of the politics of irrelevance (POI), a very deliberate side-show performed in democratic countries to distract voters from a lack of real choice.
In America, the POI usually concerns things like flag-burning laws, school meals, the death penalty debate, prayer in schools and cannabis law reform.
Airy and light topics like these are easy to speak passionately about. It is easy and respectable to take a different side on any of these matters to your core electorate, even to your best friend or partner.
By contrast, real politics, real life and death issues – China, immigration, foreign policy, Islam etc… – are more difficult for the actors in a phoney democracy to speak freely about.
Since politicians in the West want to get elected more than anything else, they won’t lay out a concrete position on substantial issues for fear of diminishing their vote. Instead, they will practice a very developed (almost artisan) kind of hypnosis – dancing a merry dance around the subject and climaxing with a very vague (but complete sounding) answer.
America would change dramatically if the politics of irrelevance was no longer an option. Politicians would then be forced to take a stand on real, flesh and blood topics. Career politicians would be weeded out almost immediately. The mind-numbing centrism of the modern US would give way to a sharp divide, providing the people with genuine choice.
There is a reason Fox news and MSNBC exist. In Britain, we call it ‘Punch and Judy politics’ (Punch and Judy are the titular characters of a traditional puppet show – popular in English seaside towns – in which each character beats the other with a stick). The kind of politics so loudly combative and dumbed down that everyone can understand it – everyone except the genuinely informed. Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity are not real journalists. They are cartoon characters – Mrs Liberal and Mr Conservative, and they fight exclusively about the irrelevant.
But what happens when the irrelevant can no longer be made to seem relevant? We may soon find out.
Gay marriage has now gone. Flag burning legislation was worn out years ago. Cannabis is being steadily legalised… The authentic is primed for a comeback, and that could be explosive.
The long sleep of the real has provided protective cover to profound failures of government. It has deadened the limbs of the libertarian majority, who when woken may throw off the establishment, both right and left. Phoney politics has postponed argument over the relationship between Islam and Islamist terrorism, the increasing use of the Spanish language in a traditionally English-speaking nation, government surveillance of law-abiding citizens, suicide rates among army veterans, the Mexicanisation of the pacific South-West, the national debt, trade imbalances with China and India, and a whole variety of real, consequential topics.
American politics is due for a makeover.