Why can’t we do things the way the Brits do? Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Friday, 23 June that he would resign as Prime Minister, after the UK voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union (EU). Monday, 11 July, a mere 18 days later, Cameron announced that he will step down in two days’ time and that Theresa May will become Britain’s next Prime Minister. Think about that. 18 days to decide on the next leader. Here in the U.S., we have been working on it for the better part of two years, and very intensely so for the past 13 months, with another four months to go until the actual election!
“I’m delighted that Theresa May will be the next prime minister. She is strong, she is competent, she is more than able to provide the leadership that our country is going to need in the years ahead, and she will have my full support,” Cameron said. Such politeness, so much dignity. On Wednesday, Cameron will hand the keys to 10 Downing Street to Ms. May. I imagine she will be busy packing for these next two days!
What I find even more amazing, particularly in light of the venomous campaign that has been going on forever here in the U.S., is that Ms. May’s chief opponent, Andrea Leadsom, graciously stepped down from her candidacy, saying the country could not afford a drawn-out political contest and needed to launch quickly into the complicated bargaining with the European Union over the split. Can you picture either Hillary Clinton or Donnie Trump stepping down voluntarily and, again, graciously, for the good of the nation? Just the thought of it makes me laugh.
It is also interesting to note that in the environment of modern-day populism that triggered Brexit, the vote to resign from the EU, Ms. May voted to remain in the EU, while Ms. Leadsom supported leaving. Nonetheless, Ms. May stated in no uncertain terms that she will now do everything in her power to ensure a smooth and timely transition from the EU. Can you picture Donnie Trump saying that he will do everything in his power to help provide a smooth path for immigrants to become citizens? Hardly.
Perhaps Ms. Leadsom would have stood a better chance had she not stated that the reason she is more qualified than Ms. May is because she has children, while Ms. May does not. That is not necessarily the most important qualification for such a high-level position, and it doomed her campaign almost from the start. She later apologized for the remark and then resigned her campaign. Why can’t Americans be that polite?
The other two potential candidates, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, both spoke in support of Ms. May, and Gove said that she should be allowed to take office as soon as possible. Why cannot we have such expedient and peaceful transitions of power here in the U.S. Oh yeah … it’s that “We The People” thing. In Britain, the office of Prime Minister is not established by the Constitution, but rather is appointed by the Queen, based on the candidate considered most likely to gain a vote of confidence from the House of Commons. While I am a great supporter of the U.S. Constitution, in recent years there are some portions that I have come to question. This election year, in particular, has given me doubt that a general election by the population is the most effective method for selecting a president. Britain’s method seems more civilized, more effective, and in the long run leaves the country with far less turmoil.
Of course I am not advocating for a change in the way we elect our president, because as I said, I support and believe in our foundation of government. However, I am advocating for bringing more civility into the process. It is no wonder that most Europeans consider the Brits to be significantly more civilized than us “damn Yankees”! They are! Aside from the whole election process, they do not encourage, nor even allow every man, woman and child to own guns. Guns are tightly regulated, and as a result, they have one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world!
How can we make our election process more civilized? We The People must stand against the violence, the name-calling, the dirty politics that define the process. We must call on our candidates to speak only of ideologies and policies, not personal affronts against other candidates. We The People must act like civilized beings before we can expect our political candidates to do so. We must learn to speak softly and to walk away from those candidates who act more like hyenas than humans. And perhaps most important of all, we must send a message to the media that we do not want to hear playground rhetoric, but are only interested in serious political discourse. We must learn to turn off CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the “big three”. When they lose viewers, their ratings drop, and when their ratings drop, they lose advertisers, and when they lose advertisers, they go broke. When the media realize that viewers will not tolerate the venom and will turn off their sets, they will stop covering events where candidates cannot act like civilized human beings. And when they do that, the politicians will not be heard and presumably they will eventually get the message.
Is all of that nothing more than a pipe dream, a fairy tale? Sadly, probably so. As a nation, we staunchly defend our rights to be crass, our rights to kill people, our rights to be racist, bigoted and just plain stupid. There are those of us who try to get our point across without violence, without spewing garbage, using instead our intellect. We live in this nation too. We pay taxes, work hard to try to make it a good place to live, to raise children, we vote, and we try to be good citizens. But unfortunately, we appear to be outnumbered. Think about it.