This year, like many years, the two presidential candidates provide American voters not with a decision about who might be the best man for the job, but rather who would be the less worse option. Indeed, it is often the case that presidential elections amount to little more than an agonizing guessing game about which candidate is the lesser of two evils. Regardless, for the political class it’s a useful and enduring myth in American discourse that a voting majority can actually wield power or substantively affect decision-making in any country (if that’s even something desirable at all). It’s actually the case that the entire electoral process in America relies on the courting of targeted interest groups, media bias, prolific fundraising, and campaign strategies aimed at wooing a handful of independent voters in a few key states deemed essential to a campaign’s electoral strategy. The cyclical nature of voting means that anyone bent on pursuing or protecting a cherished, lucrative, and influential career in high office must appear and sound likable, deliver a carefully scripted, prepackaged set of talking points subject to instant scrutiny and the wrath of easily-offended interest groups, and distort the opponent’s positions as much as possible to make him or her appear as undesirable as possible. It is becoming increasingly naive to think that any political personality seeking office can possibly be “different” from the others, a trailblazing progressive, or a refreshing new start in political culture. The fact is that no one can win elections without respecting the principles mentioned above.
During this electoral cycle, voters may understandably feel compelled to vote for a candidate they regard as an improvement over the alternative. But it’s high time for the myth of the national presidency – a quasi-divine institution that promises to rain down blessings, favor, change, and prosperity upon everything it touches – to be replaced in the American psyche with a significant dose of reality, and the reality is this: the U.S. government, while long rhetorically attaching itself to popular and good-sounding ideas such as individual rights and restrained constitutional government which have helped it win legitimacy and enthusiasm from the American people, has been and always will be an arena for people of powerful ambitions to advance their interests and those of their political allies. Neither a hip, eloquent Obama nor a successful businessman like Romney will ever change that.