The Presidential Election: Baltar vs. Roslin
All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.
The upcoming presidential election has pitted two of the most unlikeable candidates in recent memory against each other. Laura Roslin and Gaius Baltar each represent some of the worst impulses of humanity, and the prospect of having either as president of the colonies is simply terrifying. In fact, their individual platforms are so awful that they should give us pause to consider a question recently posed by Admiral Adama: does humanity even deserve to survive?
Consider the choices this election season.
Laura Roslin is the archetype of the cold, manipulative, and deceitful politician. She craves power and is willing to do anything and everything to get and keep it. Roslin embodies the ruling establishment like few others do. She’s spent her life building a political network using public and private connections, pandering to everyone from the teacher’s unions to former President Adar himself (with whom she is rumored to have carried on an affair). Furthermore, her shameless support of the military elites aboard Galactica has already cost thousands of lives, and she seems unwilling to support any kind of peace deal for the fleet.
The extent of her corruption is only now starting to be revealed thanks to a few key insiders. Sadly, many are reluctant to come forward with information about her criminal activities, probably out of fear for their own lives. Several people in her inner circle have died suddenly in mysterious circumstances, and reports of bribery and intimidation in her administration are common. Yet these revelations have done little to deter her supporters, who follow her with an almost religious fervor. In fact, the only problem that has overshadowed Roslin’s campaign has been her health. Although she has collapsed publicly more than once, her staff maintains that she’s suffering only from a minor illness, while her critics argue that she’s virtually on her deathbed.
The only serious competition Roslin had for the nomination was Tom Zarek. Zarek markets himself as a radical fighting for the common people, but the fact is, he’s a professional revolutionary with little or no grasp of the economic realities facing the fleet. He craves the spotlight, and it’s no surprise that as soon as it became obvious that he wouldn’t be nominated, he sold out to the highest bidder.
Then there’s Gaius Baltar. Underneath his ridiculous hair, Baltar is a classic narcissist whose only philosophy is self-preservation and personal advancement. It’s clear from his appalling treatment of women that he considers himself beyond accountability or reproach. However, his political appeal is based largely on his claim to being an outsider who will challenge the status quo. Yet even though he’s not a politician as such, he’s certainly no stranger to the political circles he criticizes. Like most self-styled advocates of the oppressed, Baltar is actually a member of the ruling class. In fact, he’s spent his entire life distancing himself from the working class he now claims to represent.
Baltar has amassed his popular following based on a sort of personality cult fuelled by nativism and the distrust of anyone associated with the old political order. His promise to make the colonies great again resonates with the self-described underclass of the fleet, who feel they’ve been marginalized by the Roslin administration. To these people, Baltar seems like a beacon of hope.
However, despite his popularity, Baltar lacks any good ideas. He revels in making personal attacks on his opponents, but seems unable to speak in coherent sentences when confronted with serious questions about his policies. In fact, his campaign is based almost entirely on his plan to build a giant firewall to keep out the Cylon invaders (of course, he completely ignores the fact that most of the Cylons only want peace and free trade with the colonial fleet). Baltar also never stops talking about his qualifications as a self-made man of science, but rumors are circulating that his scientific success was not his own, but was actually supported by questionable political sources. His cult-like harem goes to show, however, just how deeply ingrained the myths about his life and career really are.
To put it bluntly, the political prospects for the fleet are bleak. But this sad state of affairs is nothing new. It’s part of an endless cycle humans have been trapped in for centuries, whether it’s been on the planet Kobol, or the Twelve Colonies, or the legendary home of the Thirteenth Tribe, Earth.
Is it in the nature of humanity? No, but it is in the nature of politics. That means that while all of this has happened before, it doesn’t have to happen again.
Matt McCaffrey is assistant professor of enterprise at the University of Manchester.