There’s a political theory, first applied to online petition signing, that suggests people only care about an issue when it directly affects them. A Labour counsellor wants to allow a needle exchange to be opened next to a school, say, or Tories plan to turn your street into a dual carriageway. Suddenly you’re galvanized into attending local hearings.
It gets its name from the idea that while online activism might concern Tunisian politics, but people will only get involved when it results in their daily dose of cute cat images being shut down. US voters apparently aren’t interested in Mitt Romney’s stumble across Europe – it’s too distant to relate to.
But in parts of the US religion and politics are mixed together, which brings us to Chick-Fil-A, a hard-right Christian fried chicken chain that largely exists in the Bible-belt. After Fox News’s Mike Huckabee supported their anti-gay stance and declared Wednesday a ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’ the outlets posted their highest-ever revenues as people voted pro-Family Values (man, I hate that term) through the purchase of hand-held foodstuffs. (Wait, didn’t Oprah Winfrey just complain that India ate with its hands?)
So it’s a street-level display of faith and politics where people can directly get involved and show what they stand for. But this also suggests a fatal disconnect between major political decisions and how they affect voters. If there was a way of linking the two that wasn’t as vague as noticing that it’s a bit harder to get a job or finding your wage packet a bit thinner, people would quickly become involved and issues would get the hot-button treatment.
We would be horrified if our local chippie suddenly started handing political brochures, but maybe it a way of escaping the anodyne corporate culture now smothering every issue. I live in a world where I get emails from my aftershave – how would I feel if clothing stores suggested how I should vote?