Voters are smart. That is the biggest problem of politics

“I don’t trust politicians, no-one does,” Russell Brand said in an interview on Newsnight in November. Brand is an unlikely figure to emerge in popular politics. The comedian and actor has always been outspoken about the war on drugs, but now (in a book, no less) he is taking the entire political system to task.

Brand’s criticism of politics is far from new. Arguments that politics only represents the views of the elite go back centuries. Conspiracy theories about the corporate influence on politics have raged for decades. Brand is a new voice, though: brash, defiant and often facetious, if a little pompous and long-winded. It is little wonder that his YouTube current affairs series, the Trews, is so popular, especially amongst young voters. He is talking about real issues, on a platform and in an engaging form.
There are many problems with Brand’s views, many of which have been scrutinised since he first declared his desire for a revolution in 2013. But one big issue isn’t being addressed. Brand is no better than any other politician, however much he tries to portray his views as a conflict of them versus us, because he refuses to treat his audience with more intelligence than the ‘political class’ does. It is Brand’s them versus us arguments that are precisely the problem.

Politics thrives on oversimplification. It is a process of reduction to them versus us. The choice between two is simple. We (as ‘us’) are always right, of course, because we said so, and they said we’re not. Although parties try to present clear visions of an ideology, distinctions between parties often do not fall so neatly, so the argument happens moves to either the minutiae or a bigger picture. This, unfortunately, is how party politics has always worked – at least in Britain.

Voters can see through that. Voters are smart. You do not need to be a logician to see the problem in the arguments. Politicians generally are considered amongst the least trustworthy people. Why? Because it is all a game.

You don’t have to talk to many people to hear these attitudes being expressed. Particularly amongst young people: in 2012, a poll for BBC Radio 1/1Xtra suggested that 75% of 18 year-olds had little or no trust in politicians. In 2013, a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggested that trust in politicians was at an all-time low, scoring below Palestine and Iraq. Politicians make promises, but people are not convinced they will deliver them. To an extent, this is healthy scepticism.

There is a big but. When somebody comes along to challenge the status quo, such as Russell Brand or Nigel Farage and Ukip, the message seems to be popular. Often, the same us versus them arguments are made. But when we are against the system, it is popular. And as soon as the challengers receive enough support to be considered part of the system, we stop trusting them. And we should not overstate how influential Brand and Farage have been.

It does not take long for us to start to doubt politicians. For a healthy democracy, this needs to change. The big question is how. And the answer is easy: positive campaigning. Politicians should explain why, in detail, crucially, what they offer will help the future. If their argument is so strong, we will believe them. Then you don’t need the prevalence of smears.

We understand that there are fantastically difficult problems that need to be addressed. And we have enough memory and enough exposure to news to know, crudely, who we should be angry with. We can blame people on our own volition. So, don't tell us about the past - it is sufficiently history to bother. We know. You know we know.

Aren’t we as voters bored? Isn’t it patronising? Please, treat us with some intelligence. We're ahead of you.

By: Dan McGregor, First-year history student at the University of Warwick

Voters are smart. That is the biggest problem of politics Voters are smart. That is the biggest problem of politics Reviewed by Admin on 12:16 Rating: 5

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