Friday, March 25, 2011

The wheels on the election go round and round

By the time you read this, we may already be heading towards an election. Whenever this happens, we get to hear a few of the same tired phrases trotted out. Let’s begin.
“Canadians don’t want an election.” This gem usually comes from the incumbent. Why do they say this? As Canadians, don’t we already know what we want? Or are they swinging a shiny pocket watch in front of us while they say it, hoping to hypnotize us into repeating it, zombie-like. Is it a Jedi mind trick? (“No, these aren’t the MPs we’re looking for.”) I suppose they are just trying to remind us that with an election comes a price tag and a wasted half hour when you go to vote. Wow. Big deal. The annual budget for MP haircuts probably costs more than an election, and Canadians waste a half hour watching commercials every time they watch a late-night movie. The truth is that the only people who want an election live in countries that don’t get them at all. For some reason, democracies always treat their own election like a visit from a Jehovah’s Witness: you’ll say or do anything to get it over with and get that smiling guy out of your face.
“Time for a change.” In one shape or another, this is the rallying cry for the challengers. They’re probably right, but their argument doesn’t explain why we should change to them. Instead they hope that we’ll equate change with the next most numerous party and vote that way, resulting in a landslide victory. The real problem is that an elected official can’t really bring about change. Just ask Obama about that. A system with checks and balances helps to prevent dangerous tyranny, but it also stunts innovation and improvement.
“That guy doesn’t respect Canada: don’t vote for him.” Here we have a loose concept used to prove not that Candidate A is awesome, but rather that Candidates B, C, D, and especially E, are all evil, useless, thieving liars. Both sides use this kind of attack ad, and the irony is, both sides are always correct in whatever they say. I would be very interested in legislation limiting all electoral commentary to discussing only your own party and platform. Tell us what you can do. Tell us what you have done. Telling us that your opponent both sucks and blows isn’t selling us on you; it just isn’t. During election time, the politicians throw out all those rules we’ve learned on how best to get a job. Don’t they know an interview candidate that trash-talks their co-workers never gets hired? This is pretty basic stuff, right? Your application can’t say things like, “Yeah, my high school grades were pretty bad, but they were way better than the rest of the losers in my class. Especially that Michael guy: he barely even showed up for class.” At least in the States, attack ads are so over the top they are funny. Here, they’re just boring, and sometimes in bad taste. Does everyone remember that Chretien ad where the PCs took shots at the way his face looked? Kind of over the top, boys. I wonder which side will go that extra step this time to disgust us?
Overall prediction? In two months we wind up with another Conservative minority. In three years we’ll get to do it all again. But so what? All we’re giving up is haircut money and commercial time.

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