Friday, December 30, 2011

On wishful thinking.

Since this will end up being the last actual content, save metal-blogging, which goes up before 2012, I thought it somewhat appropriate -- and usefully time-saving -- to put up a (very) likely fruitless wishlist for the coming year in politics.


I'll keep it to five points, just because.

(1) For supporters of successful parties to stop being such dicks. Yes, your team won lots. We know. We saw it. Good for you -- you worked for it, you got it, now you get to run things for a bit. But, seriously, do you have to be such assholes about it? It's almost as if you can't quite believe you really did win. There is such a thing as magnanimity in victory. Look into it.

(2) For supporters of successful parties to stop blaming things on somebody else. It's the downside of being in charge: everything ends up being your fault. No, really, it does. I don't care what the last guy did. You're in charge. It's up to you to fix it. Can't fix it? Then it's even more your fault. If you thought being in power was fair, you're idiots.

(3) For supporters of unsuccessful parties to stop pretending they can win by just doing the same thing all over again. Yes, especially those who had historically disastrous results, and even those who had historically kickass results. You didn't come out on top. Given that we have a SMP/FPTP system, and coalition government is thus the exception rather than the rule, you either end up in charge or don't. If you didn't, you failed to achieve the reason for your existence, i.e., political power. If you did especially well, make sure you don't falter. If you did especially badly, time to make significant changes. But the only group who can justifiably keep doing the same ol', same ol' is the one that's currently in charge.

(4) For voters to stop being so stupid. Rob Ford, Stephen Harper, Barack Obama, Nick Clegg -- need I go on? If you didn't know what you were getting, you weren't paying attention. If you thought you were getting a saviour, you don't know how politics works. And if you voted for someone because they promised you things that didn't make the slightest sense -- next time, just stay home.

(5) For parties to stop bloody well pandering. Ontario politics is currently really awful for this, but this is an instance of a general problem. Yes, you are trying to win office, which requires a certain amount of promising people what they want. But there's also the "vision" thing; the "what is the city/province/country going to look like when you're done" thing; the "how will you make things better" thing. And if all you've got is "well, we'll cut a few taxes, and maybe build a road", then what you've got is nothing. Parties need to inspire and aspire, to have something they want to lead us towards, should they get the chance to do so. I've had more than enough of these focus-grouped, demographically-targeted excuses for policies and leaders.

Yeah, I know. Not gonna happen, not even one of them. But it'd be nice, wouldn't it?


William Hayes said...

Former Toronto Star columnist Angelo Persichilli gave this opinion, shortly before signing on with the Harper Conservatives:

"With the defining lines of right or left, Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat erased by events, the debate has moved from where the politicians stand, to where they sit.

"Now we have only two parties: the one in government and the other one in opposition ready to say anything in order to change its status, not the situation.

"In this context, unless oppositions try to reinvent themselves by putting real alternatives on the table or the governments have serious deficiencies, I always support the governments."

Persichilli's point is that the time between elections belongs to the government, while the time during elections belongs to the opposition. A corollary is that during elections, voters should be ignoring the government and paying attention to the opposition.

ADHR said...

Sounds like typical Persichilli. He's one of those insider-wannabe columnists (now a real-deal insider) committed to a kind of rote cynicism: all parties are the same, and all are equally bad. Note the lazy equivalence he draws between American and Canadian politics, which requires ignoring the fact that we have multiple parties sitting in the federal Parliament.

Political scientists, like Don Savoie, make the more useful point that there's a kind of systemic rot inherent in Westminster democracies, which leads to consolidating power in the hands of the Prime Minister. Combine that with ongoing disengagement from the political process on the part of the citizenry, and you get soundbyte elections oriented towards gaining power rather than discussing policy.

Funnily enough, columnists like Persichilli have done everything in their power to contribute to, rather than resolve, the problem.