On electoral insanity
With a lot of elections going on, I’ve naturally got a lot of related thoughts swirling around, and I felt this would be a good time to touch on them.
First off, the provincial election in Quebec. It perhaps isn’t surprising that the Parti Quebecois won, most commentators are so far saying the surprise is the slim margin they won by, but an analysis of the campaign and Quebeckers dissatisfaction with the Liberal government will come from other sources. I would not however suggest that this is a trend, given that it was the NDP, and not the Bloc Quebecois, that benefitted from said dissatisfaction in the last federal election.
Instead, the story seems to be about the gunman that emerged at the victory celebrations, shot one dead and wounded another, while (allegedly) shouting that the “English are waking up!” (http://www.570news.com/news/national/article/398183—shooting-mars-pq-victory-party-2-shot-1-dead) What does that mean? He said it in French, does that means he’s warning the PQ and blaming them for such a poor victory? Or is he anti-PQ and wanted to make sure they heard him? Or, given the fact that he was in a bathrobe and balaclava, is he perhaps just a little bit mad?
I have to admit that part of my umbrage comes from the fact that I heard one commentator say that this isn’t Canadian, that it’s more reminiscent of American politics - Really? Just the day before the same commentator was lamenting negative politics in the local byelection, is it such a stretch to imagine it occurring here? Of course, it’s never good, no matter where it occurs, but let’s be a bit less hyperbolic, let’s try to figure out why some gunman felt that it was okay to go shooting people over an election result.
On the local election front, after listening to an all-candidates debate yesterday, the commentator asked if the debate changed anyone’s mind, or made it up. Some of the calls in to the studio were frankly bizarre. One caller said he had one party he couldn’t vote for, one he wouldn’t vote for, so he was thinking of the other two. Fair enough, but why? Well he couldn’t vote for the Progressive Conservatives because of what they did in power fifteen years ago; and he wouldn’t vote Liberal because of the stuff they’re doing now. Hold on a sec, Chuck, you’re going to hold a party responsible today for what it did over a decade ago? Two decades ago the NDP nearly ran this province in to the ground - if you’re going to use history against them, aren’t you obligated to rule out the NDP too? So you’re only choice is the Greens, and the debate meant nothing to you.
I can’t vote in the byelection - I’m not a felon or anything, it just happens to be a byelection in a riding I don’t live in. If I could vote, however, I’m really not sure I want to vote at all. I’m getting rather tired of listening to politicians promise the moon to people, and this is only getting worse as I get older and really understand just how limited politicians power really is.
Transitioning to south of the border, the same argument applies. Ultimately Mitt Romney, if he wins, really won’t be that much worse than President Obama - just as Obama really hasn’t been that different from Bush. Obama promised change, but I knew, 100%, that Obama would not be able to deliver on his pledge. When he won, I was happy, because it did mark a way forward for American society. Before Canadians start crowing at racism in America, let’s find out the last time we elected a non-white man to be Prime Minister. Kim Campbell doesn’t count, she wasn’t elected; she was deputy leader when Mulroney resigned, and became Prime Minister by default. She subsequently was trounced in the election. So while American politics in 2008 looked ready for either an African-American President or even a (admittedly white) female President, Canada still isn’t ready for either.
The election of President Obama was a step forward, but as some of my colleagues cheered, I told them to calm themselves, and I have been fully vindicated, much to my regret. Despite promising change, Obama surely discovered just how little power he actually had, or in some cases how misguided his promises were. I know I bring it up frequently, but if any Democrats out there blasted Bush for his policies in the War on Terror, I ask you to look at Obama’s policies and see that, not only has Obama continued Bush-era activities of questionable legality to say nothing of morality, in some areas he’s gone even farther than Bush did.
The ultimate reality of politics is that you’re really just choosing what colour the candidate wears on their sleeve, not what they’ll actually do when elected.
The polarization of American politics saddens me deeply, and worries me that it’s spreading north of the border. For example, when someone can say they don’t like Clint Eastwood because he’s Republican - that’s not something I enjoy hearing, because it’s really predujiced. If the problem is that he’s supported policies you dislike, then say that; this goes back to what I was saying on the importance of precision in language. Dismissing someone because of a party affiliation is not justifiable, because even within the Republican party there are Ron Pauls, and I’m sure there are fiscal conservatives but social liberals, and not just libertarians. The polarization also encourages people to identify one way or the other and essentially forces them to publicly agree with things they may privately disagree with. I can’t help but recall Romney being quite progressive as governor, and yet as presidential candidate he’s been rather farther right-wing. This is explainable, as governor he had more freedom since he was under less of a spotlight, and he was accountable to his state and not to a rabid electorate base. What does Mitt Romney actually believe? Has he really changed that much from governor to presidential candidate?
And ultimately, does it even matter, since it’s not likely he’s going to be able to do all the things that everyone’s afraid he’s going to do?