One of the great contradictions of modern politics is the practice of individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds voting against their best interests. Thanks either to a desire to escape their social circumstances, or xenophobic, scaremongering tactics of the right, rural and urban poor have demonstrated an irrational tendency to vote with their misguided hearts, and not with their impoverished heads.

Cinderella’s ambitions knew no bounds. Despite her poor social circumstances, she dreamt big and was critical of those around her who saw welfare as a means to an end. Her sisters, thought Cinderella, were typical examples of ‘trash’ – keen to have a good time, blow their time and money on drinking and men, and content to settle below a glass ceiling which would never see them ascend to greater heights than their parents – who had been equally as impoverished growing up.

One problem with Cinderella’s world view was that, like so many of the unprivileged, she herself was caught in the poverty cycle. She didn’t receive a quality education and found it impossible to find work. This she blamed on bad luck and her family’s insistence on locking her in a basement to perform chores. She failed to see her family’s fortunes for what they were: typical of a system that lacked a social safety net and which favoured the rich through lucrative tax breaks.

Cinderella wanted better for herself and better for her future family. She always voted Republican, seeing the Democratic Party as a champion of the institutional welfare she found despicable and damaging to society. She went door knocking for local candidates and was frequently abused on election days by the majority working class, Democrat-heavy area she lived in. “GOP bitch,” they would yell. “Fascist slag,” others would say. She would take it all with a smile, knowing that her time would come, and that she would one day leave behind the small thinkers of her village.

Upon ‘marrying up’ (as she put it), Cinderella’s world view was validated. She knew she deserved better and saw the union not as an accident of circumstance but as something she deserved. She threw herself into the Republican Party, hosting fundraisers and using the Charming name as a means to support candidates both at a local and national level. She became a key Faraway Kingdom booster whose soirées were as notorious for their fundraising power as they were for their canapés.

All the while, however, she could never quite escape her roots. Even as her profile grew and grew and her reputation sparkled, Cinderella still endured taunts behind her back at fundraising events, with frequent whisperings of “gold digger” and “social climber” levelled at her by her new-found friends.

And while she was annoyed by these taunts, she could see their point. She never argued that the shoe didn’t fit.


The Breakfast Club – Part 2 of 2

On 24 March 1984, five teenagers spent the day in detention at Shermer High, Illinois. It would change their lives and their politics forever.

Andy Clark – The Athlete

After spending the day in detention with his fellow Breakfast Clubbers and hooking up with Allison, Andy made a fundamental decision: no longer would he be ruled over by his domineering father. Soon after, he ditched the jock jacket for a leather one and the Sting albums for Spingsteen. Over the next four years, his renegade streak would grow, culminating in the ultimate act of rebellion in 1988: Voting for Michael Dukakis. His hardcore Republican father was furious – just what Andy had bet on.

What started out as an act of teenage rebellion soon grew into a full time obsession. After gaining entry into Northwestern on a wrestling scholarship, Andy joined the College Democrats and devoted his time to recruiting more members through his jock connections. While he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, he was a good-looking, popular and had an individualist competitive streak honed over years spent on high school wrestling teams.

He soon became the president of the College Democrats and after college got a job in the office of the Cook County Democratic Party, where he continues to work today as chief recruitment coordinator. He counts he day he met Barack Obama as his most exciting, when the then Senator travelled to Cook County as part of his 2006 book tour.

Allison Reynolds – The Basketcase

After Claire gave her a makeover and Andy made out with her, Allison had an awakening.

It turned out that life wasn’t as black and white as she’d thought. You didn’t have to eat Cap’n Crunch and Pixie Stix sandwiches to get noticed. Putting on a little makeup wouldn’t make you a whore. Life was a kaleidoscope of grey and there was nothing wrong with treading the pragmatic middle ground.

After matriculating, she attended Chicago State, where she studied English and political science. Lunchtimes were spent sitting on the lawns sneering at the radical left students with their endless causes to rally behind. Allison also joined the politics society, where she became fascinated with theories of the Third Way, believing that the end of the Cold War would signal the death of the old left/right dichotomy and the beginning of post-partisan politics.

With her political consciousness now fully developed, Allison graduated and took up a job in middle management at the Chicago Department of Sanitation. Despite her parents’ protestations, she purchased a modestly priced apartment in the suburb of Humboldt Park, insisting that it was “pretty safe now” (and besides, she loved Puerto Rican food). Allison voted for Clinton in ’92, hopeful that he would restore balance to America through his modest realignment of the tax system. She was largely satisfied.

In 2000 she voted Gore and had strong hopes for Kerry in ’04 but was once again sorely disappointed. In 2008 she finally had the ultimate Third Way candidate. Obama would usher in an era of post-partisan, post-racial politics

Today, she has niggling concerns about the success of the post-partisan project, but consoles herself in TED videos online.

Brian Johnson – The Brain

Brian Johnson’s upper middle-class family had pushed him to the brink of suicide and the Breakfast Club helped him to see it. He came out of that day repulsed by what he saw as a glaring double standard in his parents’ liberal values system – while dinnertime conversation in their comfortable Georgian- era home often centred around helping the starving kids in Africa, his parents seemed oblivious to the emotional hunger of their own child. All of the sudden, his parents, and the liberal “elite” more generally, seemed to Brian to be a bunch of walking contradictions.

From this moment on, he vowed to devote his life to showing up the champagne-sipping, liberal elite for what they were: hollow, godless, and haters of America.

Upon graduating from the University of Chicago summa cum laude in law, Brian went on to a successful job in a top tier law firm, where he specialised in corporate litigation. In his spare time, he authored papers with titles such as ‘Clinton’s wasteful spending and why the liberal elite must be stopped from destroying America’. Gradually, the language became stronger and when the Clinton sex scandal erupted, Brian was there, pen at the ready. The result? A 3000 word polemic that was widely circulated in Republican think tanks: ‘The Clinton affair, family values and how the Republican Party can take back America’.

It was wildly successful and following its release it was rumoured that Karl Rove personally approached Brian to advise President Bush. He has opted to stay out of the White House to remain in the corporate world, where he continues to publish anti-liberal essays, online at:

The Breakfast Club – Part 2 of 2

The Breakfast Club – Part 1 of 2

On 24 March 1984, five teenagers spent the day in detention at Shermer High, Illinois. It would change their lives and their politics forever.

John Bender – The Criminal

One day in detention wasn’t about to change John Bender’s outlook on life, but it did get him a new girlfriend in Claire, whom he would later marry. Bender’s views had been cemented early in life. Living with an abusive alcoholic father had bred in him a distrust of authority figures that planted the seeds of libertarianism in his mind. Bender would never graduate from Shermer High – he dropped out soon after that Saturday in detention.

However, free from the shackles of an institutionalised education, Bender’s entrepreneurial nous started to blossom. With a little help from his new girlfriend’s wealthy family, he purchased an Apple Macintosh IIe and dived into the world of software programming. He also developed an interest in the stock market and it wasn’t long before he had combined his two passions, designing a program that could accurately predict commodity price movements.

By the early ’90s, Bender was a made man. Having sold his software to the Bank of America, he established a boutique brokerage firm in Chicago and was soon up to his eyeballs in cocaine and Dom Perignon. Bender’s politics crystallised in this period. He railed against high taxes and Big Government – the government had done nothing for him in the past and now it just wanted to tax self-made men like him. Where was the logic in that?

In 1988 he became interested in Ron Paul’s candidacy for President and the Libertarian Party. Since then he has tended to vote Republican, backing candidates who are pro-market but not pro-life, and in 2012 he is once again hoping Ron Paul will win the Republican presidential nomination.

Claire Standish – The Princess

Soon after joining the Breakfast Club, Claire realised there was more to life than pearl earrings and skiing trips to Colorado. Where was the reward in having life delivered to you on a silver platter?

Enter John Bender. While Bender had started off as simply a grab for attention from her quibbling parents, it soon became apparent that he was much more than that. Reforming John Bender would become Claire’s personal Fix-Her-Upper, the challenge that would bring fulfilment to her otherwise vacuous life. And she loved him for it.

Despite initial misgivings about Bender, Claire’s conservative parents came round to the young man, admiring his ‘organic entrepreneurial spirit’ and it wasn’t long before the couple was happily married. Claire studied PR and encouraged John to enrol in a community college course in business studies. When he wavered with his software design idea, she pushed him forward.

She was also successful in her own right. Upon graduating, she entered into a big-name PR firm and managed several big accounts during the early ‘90s, including for Sega, Pepsi Max, and Janet Jackson. She voted Clinton in ’92, purely out of respect for his rapport with the common man, but swung right in 2000, under the influence of her husband’s anti-tax, small government crusade.

By 2008, Claire’s talent for PR had started to get noticed by the right people in Washington. When she received a call to help out a struggling Hilary Clinton in the race against Obama to secure the Democratic nomination, Claire couldn’t refuse. That fall she came up with her best idea yet – the infamous ‘red phone’ ad.

Despite Clinton’s failed run at the presidency, Claire stayed in Washington and it wasn’t long before she had made the seamless transition from Clinton to the other side of politics, recruited by the Koch brothers to work on strategies for undermining the Obama administration in the lead-up to 2012.

The Breakfast Club – Part 1 of 2

Indiana Jones

When you’re an only child  being raised by an eccentric single father whose head is buried deep in medieval literature, it’s not surprising that you’ll seek guidance from somewhere else.

This was exactly the home life faced by a young Indiana Jones growing up in rural Utah. Jones felt an emptiness that went beyond lingering questions about his mother. He longed for something outside the confines of his musty home with its book-lined shelves, and someone other than his father, who, for the lack of attention he paid Jones,  may as well have been back at Oxford.

As he gazed across the Colorado Plateau, unexpectedly, he found answers in Washington and in the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

In President Roosevelt Jones found a scholar-cum-elephant hunter, who could really pull off his Rough Rider cowboy hat. Roosevelt could fill gaps in his personal development that his own father never could, and so he began to shape himself in the President’s image.  In doing so, he set off on a spiritual journey that would also deeply affect his politics.

Like his idol, it didn’t take Jones long to discover that real adventure was to be found beyond the manicured lawns of his Ivy League school, and beyond the shores of America. As his country began to explore its newfound post-adolescent strength by adopting a more proactive foreign policy, so Jones jumped into the world of 20th century international archaeology with a zealousness for acquiring museum pieces that would have made Teddy Roosevelt proud.

He soon realised that the world was a dangerous place, filled with child slave drivers, slimy Frenchmen, and snakes. Then there were those damn fascists. In World War II, Jones worked for the Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s predecessor), preventing the Nazis from capturing the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, actions which were pivotal in changing the course of the war.

Arguably more important to the war effort, Jones voted Democrat for the first time in 1932, bringing to power another Roosevelt with an outward-looking foreign policy.

Jones’s adventures abroad opened his eyes to new experiences and cultures. He formed close friendships with people from ethnically-diverse backgrounds like Sallah and Short Round. When he voted for Truman in 1948, he did so in the hope that the president would deliver on his civil rights platform.

Jones didn’t vote in ’52 but was pleasantly surprised by Eisenhower’s stand during the Little Rock Crisis. Under Eisenhower, Jones was again approached by the CIA, who asked him to spy for them in China, under the guise of an archaeologist studying Shang Dynasty bronzes. This time he declined their offer; Short Round’s family had participated in the Long March and had brought Jones around to the Maoist cause.  For the next two decades, he was shunned from holding tenure at any major academic institution in the US.

Driven to the fringes of academia, Jones began associating with underground archaeologists from the radical left, and in 1968, authored a paper on archaeological evidence for Marx’s theories on economic development. It wasn’t until the election of Jimmy Carter that Jones was finally accepted back into mainstream academia. 

But it was too late. Like so many victims of McCarthyism, Jones had fallen into a deep funk, comforted only by the occasional hard drinking session with his lifelong friend, Marion Ravenwood.

Indiana Jones

Bill and Ted

Some people’s politics are shaped by those of their parents. Some are shaped by their social milieu, or the economic situation which befell them in early life.

For others, it’s an impressionable event or person that makes an impact at a particularly influential time for a young person. Some people recall wars or social protests, while others recall encounters with law enforcement or people of political consequence shaping their embryonic political brains.

In the cases of William S. Preston and Theodore Logan, time travel was the primary shaper of their political consciences.

When a gentleman named Rufus unexpectedly entered their lives at a San Diemus Circle K in the mid 1980s, Bill and Ted were down and out, struggling to pay attention at school and instead concentrating on their sole passion –  the arts, and, more specifically, music.

All this changed when they were whisked away by Rufus’ time-travelling phone booth, beginning an excellent adventure that would have them visit several influential figures in history, who would collectively help to determine Bill and Ted’s political outlook.

Their time with Napoleon ensured they appreciated military protectionism. Likewise, the influence of Ghengis Khan and Joan D’arc solidified Bill and Ted’s mentality of putting their families’ interests first and being proud in the virtues of their nation.

Billy The Kid’s influence bred in them a cynicism of big government. The more time they spent with Mr The Kid, the more they thought, “This guy isn’t so bad. He’s a great American – why are we spending so much time and effort chasing guys like this, when the real bad guys are the fat cats on Capitol Hill, looking after their own interests and not those of the rest of us?”

This heady cocktail of political influence led Bill and Ted toward one logical end point – the Tea Party.

Hardly anti-intellectual individuals (their lengthy time spent with Socrates having ensured a strong understanding of democracy), Bill and Ted see the Tea Party as the movement most likely to develop an America they agree with; one which is at once intensely focused on the military, critical of over-governing and strongly patriotic. While they do not share some of the more overzealous evangelical tenets of the far right, if their trip through time taught them one thing, it was that opportunism is a virtue. They perceive that now is the moment to clean house in American politics and return to a much simpler time – one which their friends and travel companions enjoyed and showed to them through their senior history examination.

If Freud taught them one thing, it was that the collective subconscious is a force not to be reckoned with… and they both feel the dust blowing in the winds of change.

Long gone are the days when the Wyld Stallions rode aimlessly in search of the next musical challenge. Their slacker pasts behind them, Bill and Ted now find Rick Perry’s pending nomination for the Republican Party ticket as exciting as a day at Waterloo with their partner in crime, N. Bonaparte.

The perverse pretence of “being excellent to each other” has never rung so empty in the land of the free.

Bill and Ted


As a father, Mufasa was careful to act as a strong male role model to his impressionable son Simba, built on a solid sense of self – a lion king, descended from a long line of lion kings before him. His keen interest in parenting reflected a wider appreciation of traditional family values, including clearly delineated gender roles and a father’s position as his family’s protector.

Being a charismatic young leader himself, gifted in bringing together animals from all walks of life (some had even called him the first zebra king), Mufasa related to Clinton’s first term.  Like the Clintons,  Mufasa was also a passionate advocate for universal healthcare since witnessing the positive impact of Rafiki’s healing powers for the animal kingdom.

When Simba ventured into the elephant graveyard, Mufasa came down hard on him, justifying his reaction as a means of instilling in his son a rational fear of  threats to his freedom.  His hawkish views on border security led him to come out in strong support of the Patriot Act as well as the invasion of Afghanistan, although he drew the line at Iraq. Much like George W. Bush’s relationship with Tony Blair, in implementing his own counter-terrorism strategy, Mufasa found a willing ally in the British, through Zazu, the southern yellow-billed hornbill.

While undoubtedly leaning right, Mufasa considers himself grounded firmly in the centre, and was clearly ill at ease when his brother Scar formed a paramilitary group –  Mufasa saw this as a cynical attempt to capitalise on the angst of disenfranchised young hyenas.

On religion, Mufasa is a devout believer in the afterlife and upon his death became a talking cloud. He continues to preach conservative platitudes, such as reminding Simba to “remember who he is” (a privileged member of the animal ruling class).

Unlike many of his fellow conservatives, Mufasa is a strong supporter of action on climate change, viewing anthropogenic global warming as an indicator of disruptions to what he calls “the circle of life”.

In 2012, Mufasa is seeking a candidate who shares his views on security and family values, as well as his more progressive approach to climate change. Accordingly, he has been busy lobbying Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run as a Republican presidential nominee.


Marty and Jennifer McFly

Never a man of particularly subtle intellect, Marty McFly has nevertheless always demonstrated a certain acuteness of feeling.

And so when he zipped forward 30 years, from 1985 to 2015, he was at once thrilled by the America he saw around him: all that neon, the automatic zip-up boots, the flying cars, the hoverboard.

Yet at a deeper level – so deep he was barely conscious of it at first, and even in later years he has never really been able to, or had the desire to, articulate the feeling into anything as robust of a political philosophy – there was this gnawing sense of unease. Something about the consumerism, a claustrophobia brought on by all that advertising, would eventually trigger a longing in Marty for open spaces, for shrubbery, for national parks.

It was a longing that would eventually pitch him and girlfriend Jennifer sideways into the disjointed politics of America’s Green movement.

When they returned from their time travels, politics was the last thing on either Marty or Jennifer’s mind. As they set about building their lives, and eventually their family, in Hill Valley, the same Californian community their parents had called home, politics would remain a sideshow to them, something for other people to think about. Marty would vote for Reagan in ’88, largely because of family pressure from the cousins. Neither voted in ’92 or ’96, though Jennifer was tempted to cast for Clinton in the latter election because of the hypocrisy of the campaign against his sexual mores.

But 1996 saw both Marty and Jennifer have a political awakening of sorts, as a friend from their children’s school encouraged them to get involved in a local battle to save a rare species of frog, threatened by one of the many southern Californian housing developments that seemed to be springing up everywhere about them.

They had started on the fringes of the frog campaign, but by 1997 Marty and Jennifer were quickly finding more and more species to concern themselves with. Jennifer started cycling again, for ideological reasons this time. Marty sold his truck and began skateboarding to work. They took their holidays in Yosemite. And while they had started to become political – more political than the average American family – their politics were determinedly local. They voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but not with any real expectation he could help. You could not look to Washington for answers, they thought. Families like the McFlys had to create a greener America for themselves.

Jennifer’s perspective started to broaden after the invasion of Iraq. You could not stop this injustice in the local scout hall, she thought. So she seriously considered becoming a human shield, and even went so far as to attend training courses in San Francisco. But Marty talked her out of it, and she was glad that he did. Disillusioned with national politics, they would remain resistant even to the charms of Barack Obama. They have not voted since 2000. But they are still finding more species to protect, and have recently begun pouring their energies into designing sustainable project homes.

Marty and Jennifer McFly