After the 2006 midterm elections yielded no tangible change in US foreign policy despite some shift in power, I promised myself that never again would I become so emotionally involved in American politics. It’s partly why I went on blog hiatus for the past year. Alas, another year, more false hope, and I now confess – I have Primary Season fever.
This in itself would be bad enough, but today I read a David Brooks column where I didn’t want to throw heavy inanimate objects afterwards. (!?!?) Surely, this is the end of days.
Mr. Brooks’ column argues that voters choose their candidates irrationally/emotionally instead of on their politically valid merits. He’s absolutely right. Voting is gut thing (for those who actually vote). People don’t choose candidates who are most qualified or the best fit based on their own personal social paradigms – people choose candidates they like the best, candidates who look the best, candidates who crack the best jokes, or candidates they’d most like to have a beer with (see: George W. Bush). We all know this. We don’t talk about it too publicly though because voting, as far as perceptions are concerned, is still considered a quasi-intellectual exercise in civic responsibility (for those who actually vote). No one wants to say they voted for the candidate they’d like to shotgun beers with (for me, it’s Huckabee), or for the candidate with the best haircut (Romney, hands down).
So why is this a problem? Two reasons.
One: Elections can’t be popularity contests. These people are not elected to be on the cover of GQ or Vogue, nor are they your prom king/queen, they are individuals vested with enormous responsibilities that require a standard of inherent skill and relevant experience. Ronald Reagan was immensely popular and decidedly voted in twice. Ronald Reagan also thought the commies were coming to get him and so decided to “build” an intergalactic nuclear missile system that would save the day. And Reaganomics, unless you’re mildly retardly or a devout Republican, is actually a fancy word for “re-distribution of wealth to the upper classes under the guide of populist public policy while eroding the social security net.” (Economists call it supply-side economics.) The point is, being popular, or being politically likable, does not equate to political acuity.
Two: This one is more personal. I’ve been working recently on a potential research topic for when academia is the in the cards again in the area of public participation. We all know voter participation is on a general decline in the last three decades in Western democracies. Public participation processes like townhalls and large-scale consultations (think: The Romonow Commission) are also on the decline and seem to have less effect on public policy decisions. These direct participatory processes are essential for an active and legitimate democracy. I’d like to examine the institutional causes and challenges for this disconnect. But today I’ve been wondering… if we’re just brokering our democratic capital with our gut, what does it matter?
Filed under: Bigmouth
I’m not sure I’m fully back on this… It’s been over a year now… I’ll start with some random thoughts.
- So I was just about totally wrong on my Dion/Liberal theories last year… I feel like Andrew Coyne (just kidding Andrew, I’ve grown to like you).
- Mark Kingwell may have pretentious writing tendencies – but he also may be bang on here.
- I don’ t know who will win between Hillary and Obama – but the political discourse involved is irrelevant.
- For someone who wants to do pursue a graduate degree, I’m having a hard time completing my statement of interest… It looks like a last minute push is in order – which is comfortably fitting.
- My dedicated photoblog is finally up.
- I visit Europe in the spring. In no small part due to the kindness of friends.
- Eels is the least appreciated band of the last 10 years as a whole.
With all the talk of Dion’s past comments on the environment, it would seem that it’s only fair game to revisit Harper’s previous inclinations on climate change…
“(The accord is) based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends.”
“It focuses on carbon dioxide, which is essential to life, rather than upon pollutants.”
“Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”
(The second quote reminds me of that Big Oil “carbon dioxide is our friend” commercial in the US a while back. Extra extra, read all about it, Harper full of Big Oil!)
And now there’s news that the auditor general’s office is pushing out those who hold the view that climate change needs to be addressed seriously and actively by government. Oh, Sheila Frasier, you’re a bloody nightmare.
It’s not helping that Canadians can see right through the sudden Conservative love-in on the environment either. Less so when you consider the new Liberal leader has picked up 10 points for his party in Quebec polls. It’s up to Dion to ensure that Harper’s best dogs don’t chew up his fragile academic looking demeanour. I suggest Dion go on the offensive with the most colourful language possible… but that’s my suggestion for most things.
It’s clear that the Conservatives are going to take on the environmental issue with the credibility slant. Dion this and Dion that. Unfortunately for them, it’s already backfiring.
The Conservative government offered its next pragmatic step on its environment game plan yesterday – Dion attack ads. Quite effective I may say.* I almost missed the weekend edition of Extra! watching them over and over and over again.
Never mind the fact that there’s no election campaign, officially anyway. Everyone knows that one will be called this Spring at the earliest and this Fall at the latest, so, one can be forgiven for jumping the gun on that one. If anything, Liberal strategists are angry that they got beat to the punch on that one. Negative campaign ads? We could do that? We were too busy putting together a “dream team”!
And never mind the fact that it’s a “negative” or “attack” ad. Commentators spend an absurd amount of time discussing the ethical aspects of negative political advertising without ever realising that they’re simply fuelling the fire as per design. Everyone loves an attack ad for the same reason everyone loves the fact that Lindsay Lohan’s in rehab. It’s juicy, and scandalous, and the car wreck that keeps on giving. Intrinsic value? None. But hey, better her coke habit than mine, right? And to be fair, I probably prefer seeing the newest batch of Conservative rhetoric served up this way rather than having to see a plump Stephen Harper sitting beside his fireplace, with his eerie smile and immaculate haircut, telling me that he doesn’t eat babies (I saw the story next to the Lohan one – thank you Us Weekly!).
The only thing of substance in this story: the Conservatives are somewhat scared of having to go into the House with a comprehensive environmental strategy. So what do you do when you’re gonna lose the game and you know it? You knock your opponent’s knees out with a baseball bat so that she’s crying on national TV during the Winter Olympics. Sorry, I think I have tabloid problem.
[* - The worst part about these ads, to be serious for a moment, is that they're real. Remember that Clone High episode with the student elections? Watch that clip, and then those ads again. Yup. Wow.]
Filed under: Bigmouth, Realpolitik, The American Experiment, You and Whose Army?
Senators McCain and Warner
The masses are mobilizing in the US in light of King George’s escalation/augmentation/reconfiguration/surge/throwing 20,000 troops at a situation that needs at least five times that. At the same time, the word on the street is that just about every Republican senator is strongly opposed to the idea – privately. Will the herd follow McCain (in favour on the surge) or Warner (one of the few GOP senators publicly opposed at the moment – and his voice holds a lot of weight)? Easy. 21 Republican senators are up for re-election in 2008. Given by then, all indications are that Iraq will be in complete turmoil, it’s hard to defend being in favour of a surge before being against it. Keep in mind, the Dems only need about 10 Republican senators to defeat the surge on the Senate floor without risk of filibuster.So, expect the surge proposal idea to fall apart in Congress. You’d wish that it was being done on principle, and not political livelihood, but I suppose it’ll have to do.
And check out their new disc “Never Hear the End of It” in case you thought their best work was behind them.
Filed under: Bigmouth
The new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah LP is fantastic (reevued below and grab that mp3), and only whets the appetite on what should be an exciting and busy 2007 (upcoming releases this year include: Radiohead, Interpol, Doves, The Stooges (!?!), Massive Attack, Portishead (*cough*), Spoon, New Pornographers, Wolf Parade, Pinback, and a truckload more I can’t think of at the moment). Nothing could be of more relief given the decidedly slow year that was 2006.
Bush mentioned Darfur last night in his State of the Union. It’s a start. Tomorrow, they’ll show him where it is on a map.
3 extra minutes of daylight per day = fuck you winter
Van46 is back, for real
Arsenal came from behind with 2 second-half Baptista goals to draw Tottenham 2-2 today in the first leg of the Carling Cup semis. We were playing the youth team predominately. Spurs won’t. After last weekend’s incredible win against Man U, it’s wonderful to think what this team will be doing in a year or two.