It’s that time again when we finally turn our attentions to remembering there’s a government that has a good bit of control over our lives and decide whether or not we may actually want to have some kind of say in that. Some of us might even educate ourselves on what’s going on if there’s nothing else good on TV or if somebody mentions a talking point on Twitter. Yes, it’s that time when the right our ancestors bled for is exercised by a full fraction of the American People: election time.
Don’t be fooled, though, while following these campaigns that you’re picking a Republican or a Democrat. That’s a fallacy. You’re not. When you cast that vote, you’re most likely not even voting for the person you pick. If you are truly voting for that person, then their publicists and campaign managers have failed at their tasks. Because voting is not about a battle of men, it’s about a battle of mythic figures. Without fail, every U.S. election comes down to one thing. The decision between Robin Hood and King Arthur (I’m totes stealing your myths for this, England — we won the revolution, so suck it)
You can probably figure out which figure is which. Robin Hood redistributes the wealth of those he believes doesn’t deserve it, occupies Sherwood Forest in a commune with a bunch of people who probably sing songs and don’t bathe, and he’s a savior to those who believe the powerful are corrupt. King Arthur fights for and at the will of God Almighty he says, believes he and his drinking buddies should rule all the land with good Christian honor and decency, and to his followers is a warrior-king and the only one capable of defending their homeland from constant monstrous threats.
You see what I’m talking about.
Now the thing about mythic figures, and we see it every election, is that you can’t poke holes in them, you can’t argue the logical, linear points of them even when those points are mutually exclusive. Myths are bigger than that, bigger than logic. Myths are capable of being born rich but also coming from humble, poor roots. Myths can rub elbows with the intellectual or social elite but can still relate to the common man over a beer. It can be claimed that myths were in two places at once for the purposes of an anecdote, or that they said completely opposite things but still meant the same thing. Like the myths of old, they will take on different twists depending on the region. Robin Hood may adopt the cadence of a preacher on Sunday morning. King Arthur may suddenly have an inexplicable southern drawl. The myths are made our own wherever they go, and you can’t attack what conflicts about them because myths are bigger than that. They are symbols to their base; they are what their believers believe them to be at any given moment, changing with the winds and tide of opinion like a rudderless schooner. Reality has no purchase over these candidates.
So remember that the next time one of them stumbles for something to say or completely dodges answering a question they don’t want to. They’re not meant to be about those things, those little real-world problems we want to force upon them. They are larger-than-life figures of legend created by teleprompters, body language coaches, and focus groups; simply the fleeting vessels for the myths we desperately want them to be for the next few years.