Not In My Name: Many of us are becoming non-voters as party platforms impose a stifling straightjacket on politics
Parliamentary elections are upon us - in the United States this fall, in Austria and Germany next year. We don’t need prophetic qualities to predict that voter participation will likely be low, as it was for instance in France this spring, and that one of the most persistent discussions will inevitably focus on the disinterest of the people in parliamentary democracy and in the elected officials whose job it is to represent their interests. The term “political querulousness” only scrapes the surface of the problem. The decision to abstain from voting can have many causes, and a sense of querulousness about the poor performance record of parliamentarians is only one of many possible explanations.
Parliamentary rule is based on an idea that probably never matched reality and from which social realities have increasingly diverged. The idea says that the political interests and goals of any given voter can be reduced to a core set of beliefs. It is posited that these beliefs result from the position of the individual within society. It’s a rather Marxist belief: being determines consciousness and usually refers to an individual’s economic situation, i.e. to the question of how someone earns one’s keep.
All political interests and goals of a worker are seemingly rooted in his or her being a member of the working class, regardless of whether foreign policy or the politics of culture are concerned. This assumption has always been flawed, but it successfully survived as a political trope until a few decades ago. Now, it has become completely redundant against the backdrop of a pluralistic society.
Yet political parties still adhere to the old idea, despite a few minor modifications. They have abandoned the belief that a voter’s economic situation is directly linked to political allegiance, but they still embrace the idea that their respective party platforms can be reduced to one central thesis that spells out the core of Left or conservative or liberal or Green politics, and from which we can somehow derive concrete policy proposals for a wide range of political issues.