Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Apolitical Dangers: The Song and Dance of Canadian Politicians

Would you sing if you knew that it would get you elected Prime Minister? Would you want to be leader of a country that elected you because you were able to hum a few bars? You might, so might a few of our party leaders, and though that is a decision done for the right reason it is ultimately done for the wrong result.

Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae are some politicians who have taken to the microphone to sway voters with their singing, and though revealing personal moments is essential to give Canadians a glimpse of who these politicians really are, to do so while presenting barren policy tundra and mountains of rhetoric is moving important political debates from substance to Canadian Idol.

In the fall of 2009 while Canada was coming terms with a deteriorated economy, there were calls for extending EI benefits and sustaining stimulus spending, but instead of debate and discussion of these important issues Canadians were given a song and dance... Minus the dance.

With slumping polling figures and a threatening opposition the Prime Minister took to the stage instead of taking the podium, and while tickling the ivories and singing a Beatles classic, engaged a crowd instead of engaging Canadians.

After this concert showing of a more personal nature, the Conservatives numbers improved, important debates were stifled and ignored while public support was won without contentious policy stances, without having to incorporate diverse views or to make compromises. For that brief time politics in Canada went awol, politics were suddenly not politics, but instead a pure contest for votes absent of ideology or platform. It was not a judgement of who to support based on values, but instead a judgement of who to support based on superficial appearances, a public arena where the opposition leaders feared to tread.

Not long after however, prominent Liberal Bob Rae took to the same tact, and just recently with Canadians calling for debate on the extension of the Afghan mission and other important issues instead of offering discussion our Prime Minister returned to the piano and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff belted out a tune or two.

Seeking to primarily appeal to voters on a personal level detracts from more substantive involvment. The Globe and Mail reports that Stephen Harper, though in a jovial tone last night, suggested Canadians know more about his singing than his actual policies. The online website stated, "Mr. Harper didn’t sing but he talked about his rock performance last week. He laughed about the fact that more Canadians seem know about his singing abilities than his policies."

Our representative democracy requires some, almost apolitical, personal attachment to our elected officials, but the success of that same democracy relies fundamentally on the discussion and debate of ideas. If politicans keep appealing to our popular instincts instead of to our rational minds, yes they may increase their support, yes they may win government, but they do so with the wrong result. A government that does not owe its election to rationality and discourse quickly departs from it and we are left not with what's right but with what's popular.

To ensure Canada is a country of principle and not whim, politicians should spend less time making apolitical personal appeals such as singing, posing, and acting; and more time engaging Canadians with their political ideas and platforms.

1 comment:

WesternGrit said...

Good post!

Our politics is becoming more and more a "one-liner", "hot-button" thing, as in the USA. As the Conservatives work harder to have us mimick the US system people will get more disengaged - which works for them - their "core" (the religious right extremists) will always come out to vote...

We need to work on educating voters more, and giving them real issues to vote on, not just "grey areas" separating 3 parties. Voter disinterest comes from lower engagement. They are too busy working two jobs, etc., etc. The rat race is more important that quality of life, and when that happens, political discourse suffers. We all become corporate zombies (as the typical conservative would want) at the government's beck and call.