The increasing voter-politician disconnect

At a time when so much seems choreographed, voters crave authenticity in their politicians, which may be why Nicola Sturgeon (left) has been the undoubted star of the U.K. campaign.  

The U.K. election, the rollout of Hillary Clinton and the early rumblings in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Spring has brought with it a cloudburst of electoral politics, but voters appear to be in a state of hibernation.

Other than the buzz surrounding the Scottish nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon, the U.K. campaign appears to be limping towards an anti-climactic conclusion.

Dynastic showdown in U.S.

On this side of the Atlantic, the prospect of the race for the White House turning into a dynastic showdown between the Clintons and Bushes — families that between them have had tenancy for 20 of the past 27 years — is not for many voters particularly enticing.

Recently elected politicians have found it hard to dominate.

The global economic downturn has been accompanied by a global democratic downturn.

In America, the malaise is evident in public disaffection with Washington, which has reached historically high levels.

Last year, a Gallup poll suggested that just seven per cent of Americans had confidence in Congress, a record low.

Confidence in the presidency also slumped to 29 per cent, a six-year low.

In Britain, voter turnout, historically speaking, is also low — 65.1 per cent in 2010 compared with the high point of 83.9 per cent in 1950 (although the nadir came in 2001, when it slipped for the first time below 60 per cent).

So what explains this political recession?

Careerist politicians

Across the democratic world, a gap has unquestionably opened up between a cadre of careerist politicians and the people they represent.

In Britain, it is particularly marked. David Cameron and Ed Miliband are essentially professional politicians, who decided to make Westminster the target of their ambitions early on and rarely deviated from that path.

Professional politicians tend to be surrounded by political professionals: spin doctors, image-makers and polling experts.

Yet their efforts at making candidates electorally appealing often have the effect of making them seem phony.

At a time when so much seems choreographed and prefabricated, voters crave authenticity in their politicians, which may be why Nicola Sturgeon has been the undoubted star of the U.K. campaign.

Not only does she come across as being comfortable in her own skin, but finds it easy to explain why she entered politics.

She was motivated by a hatred of Thatcherism and a determination to win independence for Scotland.

The political passions of her opponents — what made them enter politics in the first place — are not so easily identifiable.

To many voters, they seem more self-serving. Conviction politicians have arguably become something of an endangered species.

Thanks largely to the web, never before has the planet been so interconnected.

But the evidence from around the democratic world, from turnout at elections to political participation in between, suggests that rarely before in the age of universal suffrage have politicians seemed so disconnected.

— © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 3:18:01 AM |

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