A lack of political impact

Verbal acrimony and dumb wisecracks have been staple fare during the long, informal runup to the general election. Both the leader of the opposition and the prime minister are now playing the same game. With neither of them new to the exercise of power, the former denounces the «fresh» sins of New Democracy and the latter the «stale» ones of PASOK, all at full blast and with a selective use of the truth. Both exaggerate events and evidence that favor them rather than their opponent. And they omit or distort anything that is not in tandem with their self-interested version of reality. The politics of real problems has been replaced by the politics of smart remarks aimed exclusively at making an impression. Invective from both sides feeds the television news, but its real political impact is usually next to nothing. Partisan confrontation focuses not on a credible political platform but on debasing the opponent, in what appears to be a competition to decide not who is most capable and effective but who is less corrupt and harmful to Greece. It would be naive to expect political leaders to put on a display of objectivity and measured judgment. That is not their role. Their need to foment party patriotism and militancy is understandable, as is their attempt to gather votes. But petty partisan tiffs and displays of vituperance are practices of doubtful effectiveness. Party cadres place trust in them, perhaps because they have little imagination to try alternatives. Their main argument is that the two major parties retain their dominant position in our political life. Yet a not insignificant proportion of voters resents this inundation of badly acted political kitsch. That’s why the «rejection party» scores high in opinion polls. Party officials do not appear concerned about the glaring crisis in political representation. The message will reach the recipients only when a half-hearted vote ceases to be a vote.