Sausage Roll Civility

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Sausage Roll on Congress
Can a Pastry Save America?
In the shadowed corridors of Congress, where real decisions are carved out far from public view, resides a machine of critical importance to the democratic process. Words are fed into its funnel, transformed into a malleable paste, and packed into glossy tubes of promise.
These tubes then make their way to the chambers we see on C-SPAN or during State of the Union addresses, ready to be claimed by all in attendance (and yes, we see those taking more than their share).
But what if these savory cylinders of delight were accessible to everyone? An irresistible treat with options for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.
Could this simple culinary delight be the antidote to the legislative gridlock that afflicts the United States Congress? Might it help elect a Speaker of the House?
The answer, it seems, might just be found in a land far away — on YouTube.
Rekindling an Interest
After many years, I’ve returned to a once-intriguing pastime: politics. Not the nonsensical cacophony of shallow rhetoric and impulsive decisions based on preconceived notions and fears. I mean the rich tapestry of history, strategy, elections, and the intricate dance of policy creation.
Yes, bluster plays its part in strategy, but there’s a disproportionate emphasis on feel-good rhetoric over cultivating long-term success through thoughtful actions.
In this return to the political arena, I’ve resumed watching elections worldwide, immersing myself in the intricacies of different political systems, election coverage, key policies, and the evolution of political parties.
My most recent internet travel took me to the South Pacific.
A Birdseye View of New Zealand
In the 2023 New Zealand Parliamentary Election, the center-right National Party emerged victorious, with former business executive Chris Luxon at its helm, marking one of the quickest ascents from citizen to prime minister in New Zealand’s history. A coalition government appears likely with the right-leaning libertarian ACT party and possibly additional assistance from the New Zealand First Party, led by seasoned populist Winston Peters.
This election marked the end of the Labour Party’s six-year reign, led by former PM Jacinda Aldern, who stepped down earlier this year, and current PM Chris Hipkins, a tenure that spanned a global pandemic.  (For those interested, here’s a video from the Electoral Commission NZ explaining the New Zealand Parliamentary Elections.)
What struck me, as an American observer, was the seamless integration of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, into the country’s social fabric — a level of inclusion I hadn’t witnessed in too many other places with such a complicated history.
Broadcasts on 1News routinely included greetings in both English and the Maori language. Though familiar with the co-existence of these cultures through my growing education of the South Pacific and cultural phenomena through sports, like the Haka, this was a refreshing revelation. (If you don’t want to wait until the Rugby World Cup Final this Saturday when New Zealand takes on South Africa to see a live Haka, here is a classic one.)
The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, was meant to grant the Maori the same rights and protections as British subjects, allowing them to retain their lands and governance rights. However, this was not without its challenges, leading to the New Zealand Wars and the subsequent confiscation of Maori lands. Efforts to rectify these breaches continue through the Treaty of Waitangi Act (1975) and the Waitangi Tribunal. I’m just scratching the surface of this vast topic.
Te Parti Maori had a strong performance, including the election of young candidates like 21-year-old Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke, the youngest MP in over a century, alongside other new young MPs like Green Party members Tamatha Paul (26) and Chloe Swarbrick (29), and ACT’s Brooke van Velden (31).
The Sausage Roll 
However, a seemingly small detail inspired this piece: the prominence of sausage rolls in the election banter. Yes, sausage rolls.
Apparently, they are a big deal, especially around election time.
A beloved treat throughout the Commonwealth and arguably worldwide, sausage rolls have a storied history. PM Hipkins is a known aficionado of this pastry, a frequent topic of discussion during his travels.
The Sydney Morning Herald noted:
Another titbit about Hipkins – his love of sausage rolls – is now coming back to haunt him. The pastry treat is now on the prime minister’s menu with great frequency in his travels across the country, as if he was a judge on the Great New Zealand Sausage Roll Bake Off. “It’s fun. It’s nice,” he insists, “I wasn’t kidding when I said I like sausage roll.”
Putting meat in bread is as old as time. The roots of the sausage roll can be traced back to ancient Rome and Greece, with its modern form likely originating in 17th-century Austria and 19th-century France. The rolls somehow came to Britain, one of the few things that got through the English Channel when Napoleon was playing _Risk_ around Europe. In proper empire form, the pastry’s travel made the dish British. Like with all good things, America invented the snack in 2017.
Sausage rolls are primarily distinguished by their puff pastry casing, which snugly envelops the sausage like a cozy sleeping bag under a starlit sky. The puff pastry, closely related to phyllo dough used in baklava, developed over the years in Europe and Asia.
The British bakery chain Greggs sells millions of them per week. In 2012, the British government, led by former Tory PM David Cameron, tried introducing a “Pasty Tax,” including sausage rolls. The response from the British public was so negative that then Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to Finance Minister) George Osbourne had to abandon the plans.
The sausage roll has inspired songs, sports, opera, and, as I posit, has the potential to reshape American politics.
Can a Sausage Roll Bring Better Politics?
The sense of community and civility surrounding New Zealand’s election, centered around shared food, starkly contrasted with the current state of American politics.
From PM Luxon’s family sharing snacks with reporters to a more relational approach to political consequences, there was a palpable difference in the political atmosphere. Outgoing PM Hipkins concession speech is worth a listen.
New Zealand is not without its challenges and divisions, but a sense of accountability and connection seems to be missing in the U.S. political arena.
In America, our politicians have morphed from public servants to celebrities, and our political landscape from a service to the public to an arena where the public serves those in power.
Even candid moments with American candidates seem staged compared to the authenticity I witnessed during the New Zealand elections.
Our focus on charisma and confidence has overshadowed the need for cooperation and genuine policy-making, making figures like former president Trump and those following his playbook appealing to a populace tired of polished, back-stabbing politicians.
Our relentless election cycle fosters constant campaigning, increasing the need for financial resources and raising the barriers to entry for potential candidates.
In contrast, leaders in other democracies might ride their bikes to work, while in the U.S., we have bulletproof SUVs.
The distance between elected officials and the populace has grown, filled with lobbyists, donors, PACs, and consultants, creating layers of separation from the heart of the matter — the proverbial sausage in our political sausage roll.
We’ve entered a time when even positive news is met with skepticism and sensationalism, and discord reigns supreme.
Building trust requires more than just honesty from our politicians; it involves restructuring incentives and reconnection between elected officials and their constituents.
While the U.S. sees young representation occasionally, it often comes with hefty financial backing and major party support. Also, other democracies seem to offer the understanding of a robust life outside of the political rat race. A call that many in office would benefit to hear sooner rather than later.
Conclusion
Perhaps sausage rolls won’t single-handedly save American politics, but they represent a stark difference in political culture.
It’s a whimsical suggestion, yet it points to a deeper truth — the need for a shift in the American political mindset, fostering connection, civility, and shared responsibility—somehow.
Just as sausage rolls in New Zealand represent common ground for people of all walks of life, American politics needs a return to its roots — a simpler time when public service was the focus, and the heart of the matter wasn’t so well hidden within layers of dough.
The sausage roll’s journey from ancient Rome to the 2023 New Zealand Parliamentary Election is an epic one, not unlike the journey American politics needs to embark upon to rediscover its essence.
In a time that feels so long ago, a Republican constituent once said of former Democrat Montana governor Ted Schwinden, a plain talker who died earlier this month at 98 who was famous for keeping his home number listed in the Helena phone book and responding to every letter written to him,
“I don’t agree with Ted, but I trust the son of a bitch.”
May the lessons from a simple pastry serve as food for thought, inspiring a more connected, accountable, and humane approach to governance.
We get the leaders we deserve and, in part, create.
I need a sausage roll.

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