Die Gesellschaft in den USA wird durch einen Graben, der immer tiefer wird, getrennt. Dieser Entwicklung ging Kelly Nyks in seinem neusten Dokumentarfilm nach. “Split – a deeper Divide” (Trailer zum Film) entstand auf einer Reise quer durch das Land: Er sprach mit vielen Menschen und konfrontierte sie alle mit sechs an sich einfachen Fragen. Der Film packt, rüttelt auf und regt zum Nachdenken an. Letzte Woche war Kelly Nyks zu Gast im “Lunchkino” unserer Agentur. Im Interview erzählt Nkys präzis und engagiert, was in und mit seinem Land geschieht. Es wird – ausnahmsweise – in englischer Sprache publiziert.
Kelly Nyks: While US politics has always been somewhat predisposed to a divided nature because it has historically always been a two party system, there was an ideological overlap between the two parties that saw a compromise-oriented tone guide politics through most eras. A number of different factors led to the ideological homogenization of the parties that took place in the 1980’s – the Democratic Party becoming nearly exclusively liberal and the Republican Party nearly exclusively conservative – and as a result, the two parties move further away from one another on the ideological spectrum. this separation of the parties is plainly evident in the congressional voting records where the gap between them becomes quite clearly apparent. This separating trend was amplified by the Republican Party retaking power in the congress in 1994 for the first time since 1952 – they had been the minority party out of power for over four decades – and the aim once they had regained power was, above all, not to return to this minority position. This led to a far more agressive and divisive tone to politics that drove an even greater wedge between the two parties and their respective supporters.
Eventually, it is mostly about big money which powerful players poured into the Republican and the Democratic Party?
Money has always played a primary role in american politics – as Mark Hanna, President McKinley’s principal adviser, famously said: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.” While this is true, money is flooding the political system like never before largely as a consequence of Supreme Court rulings – equating money with free speech in election campaign and removing the limits outside groups can spend in support of a candidate (the Citizen’s United). until this change is addressed, the campaigns will serve as zones of influence for those with the resources to do so.
During the George Bush junior administration there was a law in place which limited the donations for parties and politicians tremendously. Looking back now, do you believe this bill had turned things to be bad because the PACs (political action committee) and Super PACs emerged? In other words: The power shifted from the parties to the PACs?
There was nearly a century of Supreme Court precedence which strove to limit special interest spending in political campaigns. This was overturned in the Citizen United decision which President Obama addressed directly in his 2010 State of the Union, criticizing the high court for having “reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests.” Super-PAC spending has, by nearly all measures, a corrosive effect on the health and well-being of democracy and will need to be addressed.
You claim that is almost impossible to talk about politics without touching upon morality. Why has morality become such a huge thing in the US?
Religion plays a different role in american politics than it does in western european politics – a far more pervasive one, suffusing american politics. It is a common feature of campaigns for presidential candidates to state their faith – republican or democrat – and one of the main reasons we see this time and time again is that morality and religion are incredibly effective and efficient mobilizing levers to spur voters to action by focusing on moral issues that resonate deeply within them.
After the 2008 Presidential elections, Barack Obama and Senator John McCain promised to start a post-partisan era in Washington. It did not happen – only because of the devastating financial crisis?
The idea of a post-partisan era was, unfortunately, an unrealistic expectation due to the factors responsible for the partisanship in the first place, none of which the election of barack obama as president eradicated or ameliorated. Instead of a post-partisan era, we have seen the advent of a hyper-partisan era with more extreme candidates candidates replacing moderates – the defeat of dick lugar and the retirement of olympian snowe and evan bayh as a direct result of the increased partisanship. While the financial crisis did bring into sharp relief the differences between the two party’s attitude towards the role of government and free enterprise in society, the deeper lying divisive factors remain firmly in place and we can expect them to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Many American citizens have turned away from politics, they are fed up or simply say: “Why bother?” Is there an option to engage them in a discourse?
The question is an important one as there was a certain expectation, and not an entirely unrealistic one, that the financial crisis would unite the country behind the common purporse of reinvigorating the american economy. unfortunately, the politics of the moment – seeing the crisis as an opportunity to gain political ground – took precedence and the opportunity to come together as a nation was missed. It is difficult to say or imagine what might serve to initiate across-the-aisle discourse in this hyper-partisan era.
How do people react once the have seen your film? Does it make a difference?
The reaction to the film has been tremendously positive both domestically and abroad. I believe the main reason for this is that the film investigates the current political environment from a decidedly non-partisan perspective. this objective approach – conspicuously absent in the contemporary american news media – has allowed those viewing the film to feel that their point of view is respected rather than ridiculed or attacked, and therefore able to embrace dialogue on the subjects the film raises openly. the conversation on politics at screenings have been some of the most thought-provoking, suprising and rewarding discussions i have had the great fortune to take part in and, as a filmmaker, it is the greatest gift one can receive.
Interview und Foto: Mark Balsiger
Ein längeres Interview mit Nyks wird demnächst in der Tageszeitung “Der Bund” erscheinen.