In the summer of 1997 I asked the gatekeeper at Durham Castle what he thought of the elections. Typical example of a tourist attempting to discover the common man’s thinking from a sample of one (possibly) common man. Said gatekeeper, grinning, thought that it was time Labour had a turn. This struck me as an impenetrably obtuse way to look at self-government. Since that time, however, I have detected what he said out loud not far beneath the surface in the comments of Americans about their elections.
Those motivated by ideology leap to unwarranted conclusions about people who operate non-ideologically. I do, at any rate. A female attorney told me she supported Hillary because men had had plenty of chances to fix things and it would be good for a woman to have a try. I assumed First Wave Feminist Lite. I mean, 54 years old. Attorney. Female. Didn’t even consider Republicans in the running for her vote. Hillary supporter, with a specific reference to her sex. I was quite wrong. In later conversations, I picked up that she is not a general supporter of affirmative action. She is mildly pro-life, and very against partial-birth abortion. She mostly supports the war in Iraq. She is a free-marketer suspicious of unions. She is a Massachusetts Irish Democrat by heritage, and reports sheepishly that she votes Democrat mostly for that reason, even when she disagrees with them.
To one such as I, this is a bit baffling.
I don’t make an artificially sharp distinction here. I certainly understand people taking character, managerial skills, and judgment into account. There are candidates I greatly agree with but would not vote for, plus a few I often disagree with but could see voting for in many circumstances. But it has never crossed my mind to vote for someone because it is their turn, or their party’s or their group’s turn. It even seems rather a step down from voting the bums out in general dissatisfaction.
If one takes the view that elected officials don’t affect much and are mostly symbolic representatives, then taking turns makes eminent sense. More sense than voting ideology, actually.