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Another Political Aside


There’s a provincial election campaign running right now in Alberta. I won’t waste your time explaining the specifics, simply because if you live here, you’ve probably already decided whether or not you’re going to vote and someone like me won’t give you much help in clarifying things. Of course, if you don’t live here, you’re probably not interested in the provincial level of politics unless there’s a very specific issue you care about, in which case you know all about it already.

What I would like to know is why we keep getting nastier in our politics. It seems like in an era like this one, there’s so much information out there that any political entity should be able to get out their message adequately to anyone who wants it. Accordingly, it would be intuitive for democratically-elected governments to be elected on and run campaigns based on policy. Yet, increasingly I see American-style attack ads on TV and verbal rhetoric that is as close to offensive as possible without crossing to slander.

It’s not something that is unique to the provincial level; I’ve noticed it with Canada’s recent federal elections, as well as of course the ongoing labyrinth that is the American presidential race. Candidates are not elected based on whether they support higher taxes and increased social programs or broad tax cuts and hands-off government, but by how ‘nice’ and ‘trustworthy’ they can appear in spite of the opposition’s every attempt to paint them as an avatar of evil.

I realize that politics is the art of spinning information to your benefit, but the extent and kind of spin I see today makes me scratch my head in confusion. Surely people aren’t naive enough to vote for one politician on the basis that they have had the least negative press? It seems as if the name of the game is starting to be ‘make them look bad’ not ‘show how good a governor you will be’.

I think the general population is partially to blame for this. We’ve spent pretty much the entire human existence vilifying governments as being awful organizations that are only out for power and have none of our best interests at heart. Comedians, media people, and the average person out for a drink having a few jokes with friends: all of them make fun of how terrible politicians are. As a result, there’s this sort of widespread acceptance of the idea that one shouldn’t be picking the ‘best’ leader or ‘best’ party, but merely the least of all evils.

This seems to me to be such an awful way of viewing the world. Many people who go into politics really do want to make the world a better place. They absolutely disagree amongst each other because that’s what people do, but we can’t simply assume things will be bad. If governments are all bad no matter what, why do we still have things like schools being built, hospitals providing health care, roads maintained, and an economy that at least provides a large chunk of the population with a way to avoid starving? The race to form a government shouldn’t be some sort of bastardized version of a high school class president’s election, which basically turns into a popularity contest based on who has the best combination of good looks and a sense of humour.

We deserve better, but it won’t happen until you actually go out, do the research on the various parties, and decide which one’s policies actually represent your desires for government. If you voted for what you want done, rather than for whom you want to do it, you’ll probably get a better result.

And if someone wins who you don’t want to, don’t throw them under a bus just because you disagree with them. We can and should be better than that. It’s not a glamourous job, and it’s generally a thankless one. Let’s not encourage them to be any nastier than they already are.


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