Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A More Democratic Senate Is Less So

Canadians certainly are no Nero, but they do have at least one thing in common with the late Roman emperor.

In 64 AD it is said that while Rome burned its emperor Nero fiddled. That while his city suffered calamity he amused himself with music. Today Canadians are doing something similar.

Rome may not be burning, but with decreasing turnout, less party members, and more partisanship, Canada's democracy is clearly in danger and instead of stopping to help, Canadians are too busy fiddling, with the Senate.

It can't be anything but odd, that while Canada's democracy is weakening on every academic and practical measure, Canadians are becoming increasingly vocal for an elected Senate. But then again the scene of Nero lost in his music not far from the flames rising above his city would also be quite jarring.

One cannot imagine a worse time for advocates of a democratically elected Senate than now. For decades Canadians have been voting less and the numbers of those politically active have been similarly declining. Membership for all parties has been falling for some time, yet simultaneously those few that do sign up are increasingly more partisan, the greater polarization in Parliament testifies to that.

Membership in traditional social organizations, like unions, churches and volunteer associations, that were once sources of political mobilization are also declining, while the influence in politics from large corporations is only becoming more pervasive.

With the Canadian state of democracy in poor condition, it's hard to see how making the Senate directly elected is the answer and not a more moderate reform, like non-partisan appointing committees.

In the end if we only make the Senate democratic, Rome will still be burning, and all we've done is built more Rome.

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