Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Presidential Elections As Fertility Myths

I've been reading some mythology lately, and, whenever I do, I find it interesting how similar our society is to those of the societies that created the mythologies.  Even though we like to think that we are much more sophisticated than those primitive societies, one can find many parallels between the societies.  For example, they often have endtime myths such as Ragnorok in the Norse mythos.  Well, we have Revelations in Christianity and we just had the silly 2012 thing in secular culture.  Less easy to parody are worries over nuclear apocalypse or global warming catastrophes.  Endtime myths usually serve as guidelines for us to modify or control our behavior so as not to bring about the end, though in some cultures the end comes no matter what the people do--see our own ideas in science of entropy or the heat death of the universe.

Looking back on the year, despite the 2012 Mayan nonsense, I think the myth that struck us Americans the most was that of the fertility ritual.  Even though we don't dance for rain or sacrifice virgins or have to perform a quest to heal the fisher king, we do elect a president.  And what do we believe the president can do?

Stimulate the economy.

We might not be harvesting corn, but the basic concept is the same.  Of course, the president can have some effect on the economy, but probably not as much as we believe he will have (if he could fix everything, then do you think the current economic malaise would have hung around since 2008?).  Nevertheless, I bet people often vote in a mythological sense.  We certainly know that people don't vote rationally much of the time.  If people did vote rationally, then one wouldn't find so many working class people voting Republican.  Instead, most people seem to vote more for emotional reasons such as which candidate can tell the most compelling narrative.

Which brings us back to mythology.  Both of the major political party candidates had sexual stereotypes working for them in a fertility sense.  Obama had the stereotype of African sexual prowess whereas Romney had the Mormon polygamy thing going for him.  In reality, both men were family types, but mythology and reality don't always cohere.  Mythologically, perhaps voters wanted to see which one was most virile, and they decided on Obama.

Of course, mythology is one of those attractive lens similar to economics and psychology through which one is tempted to explain all of human society, when the truth is likely a bit more complex.  Still, it's hard not to look at a clip such as the one below and not think that voters in 1992 might have thought Clinton was probably a bit better than the other two in bed and voted for him accordingly (in contrast to handsome Willie, Grandpa Bush is looking at his watch, wondering when he can just get this over with and go to sleep):
Which brings us to 2016.  It will be interesting to see how a female candidate fares if the presidential election is basically a fertility ritual.  With two females, would a premenopausal candidate fare better than a postmenopausal candidate?  How would a female candidate face off against a male candidate? 

Stuff like this does sound crazy, but it's amazing how much a mythological approach can explain about our culture.

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