I was sitting down in the living room the other day trying to figure out how to explain the nature of politics to my 10-year old daughter, Jackie. Not that she had asked of course, but it seemed sensible to be prepared should the moment arise.
This is not easy to do and needs to be squeezed in between the new parrot, George, who lives on Jackie's head, basketball practice, homework, guitar lessons and sleepovers.
The real problem is not Jackie's schedule; it is that I don't think North America really has much of a democracy anymore, notwithstanding the repetitious calls for freedom and democracy around the world from American politicians running for dog catcher or president.
I don't subscribe anymore to the old saw "it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried" which came from one of its greatest defenders, Winston Churchill.
The problem is that elections are not about real choices. They are about tactics. Only tactics. Any tactics.
The appointment of Sarah Palin to run for Vice President of the United States for the Republican Party is so preposterous it defies imagination. She is a heartbeat from the Presidency. She is a tactic, not a candidate. She is incompetent. It is on par with asking me to become an astronaut by noon tomorrow, press conference to follow.
The discovery that negative advertising works better than policies, coupled with 24-hour cable networks, YouTube and bloggers, means all the money is spent on negative advertising trying to demonize your opponent. This is an American innovation now exported along with Mickey around the world.
The problem is that this construct destroys the essence of democracy which contains the notion that everyone has a free and equal right to choose who will represent them.
Democracy is only theoretical if money, plus technology, plus demonization strategies (of opponents or people who won't vote for you) mean you made no choice at all, but were simply buffeted by competing bully strategies; things you advise your children not to emulate.
The best example in the Canadian Campaign of this tactic is Stephen Harper's attack on Artists.
"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala and all sorts of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayer, claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know they have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people,” he said.”Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget."
I mean, why would the Prime Minister of the country talk like this?
This is what bullies do. They isolate people or individuals, and ridicule them or diminish them. In the schoolyard they may be the wrong colour, or dress funny, or be gay or overweight, or just weak and easily preyed upon.
The Prime Minister did this because artists are not going to vote for him anyway. By belittling them it helps him solidify his base with people who agree with him and feel real good because he is putting them in their place, whatever that may be. This is politics American style.
The math is this.
Sixty per cent of the population in Canada do not support this dumbed-down Conservative Americana claptrap, but there are four parties sharing that point of view in Canada and unfortunately for them they share those votes, so all the Prime Minister has to do is get his supporters (between 32 and 40 per cent of the population on a good day) to show up. What better way to do it than pander to their baser instincts.
Stéphane Dion is trying desperately to learn how to demonize, Jack is getting the hang of it, but it is much too late for him.
You've got to hand it to Harper. He is an unpleasant angry force, but he is a very smart unpleasant angry force.
He knows where his votes are parked and he has no shame in collecting them. It reminds me a lot of Jean Chretien. I think I'll talk this over with the Parrot before I speak with Jackie.
Laurentian Media Group