American dream

Britain’s eye for American politics has distracted them from their own stale executive election.

Alisa Bristow

President Barack ObamaâÄôs first year in office was recently marked in the British media with a veritable array of news reports, specials and opinion pieces. Whilst this fascination with American politics is nothing new, these programmes and reports highlighted the fundamental differences between the glitzy American and drab British political scenes. Whilst we are in the final months of a run-up to an election, even the media seems hardly able to summon the same kind of interest in Brown, Cameron and Clegg. Conversely, the U.S. election of a year and a half ago seemed to enthuse the British public as well as the Americans. I was studying in the United States at the time of the 2008 election and there was a palpable sense of excitement. Regardless of the unique circumstances of the election, and contrary to popular stereotype, the Americans I met took a real and sustained interest in the political process. On campus, discussion panels were frequently chaired by faculty, and almost everyone I knew attended. The televised debates were a major social event. The much-touted âÄúgrass rootsâÄôâÄù nature of ObamaâÄôs appeal was very much in evidence. Nor was this an isolated phenomenon; the recent senate election in Massachusetts garnered similar popular attention. So what do we have at the University of East Anglia? If there are comparable talks and events, they certainly donâÄôt seem to gain the same kind of mass appeal, whilst the general sense of apathy that has infected the country at large seems present on campus, too. The atmospheres in the United States and Britain, when it comes to the run-up to elections, are two entirely different animals. And whilst it is easy to bemoan the fact that we have no comparatively inspiring candidates, only a multitude of white, middle-aged, middle-class men, surely the question we must ask ourselves is: Do we get the politicians we deserve? There is surely a point at which, where if we have surrendered our government to career politicians and fail to engage in the political process, then we lose our right to expect more. Democracy, in its ideal form, requires the active participation of the populace to keep the social contract working. So whilst we may be longing for the election of the first Prime Minister from an ethnic minority or even a leader who inspires more than boredom verging on disgust, we should start the process of transforming the political scene right now, whether by picking up a paper and mulling over the issues, registering to vote, or even deciding to run for office ourselves. This column was written by Alisa Bristow and originally published in the United KingdomâÄôs Concrete Online.