Two similar quotes on the depoliticization of democracy
Even democracy’s most important if superficial icon, “free” elections, have become circuses of marketing and management, from spectacles of fund-raising to spectacles of targeted voter “mobilization.” As citizens are wooed by sophisticated campaign marketing strategies that place voting on a par with choosing brands of electronics, political life is increasingly reduced to media and marketing success. It is not only candidates who are packaged by public relations experts more familiar with brand promulgation and handling the corporate media than democratic principles; so also are political policies and agendas sold as consumer rather than public goods.
In large parts of the world, the citizens are primarily spectators of politics, with only the right to vote once every four or five years. The rest of the time they see politics as a spectator sports on television, enjoying vicariously a feeling of active participation in public life. Even the electoral process is becoming more media-sensitive and turning into brand wars over market share. The de-politicization of politics is no longer a catchphrase in the ‘advanced’ democracies. It is reflected in the increasingly poor voter turnout in some of the most powerful democracies in the world. In the United States, voter turnout is usually half of what it is in India. Increasingly, some of the central political problems of our time – such as mass poverty, loss of security at the bottom of society, threats to life-support systems and environment, and loss of vocations – are pushed out of political debates in many democracies. The sense of sheer impotence and irrelevance forces many to opt for ideologies that seek to restore agency to the individual, if not as a responsible, self-conscious citizen making personal choices, at least as an agent of a trans-human, cosmic power presiding over a moral universe.