24 Hour Party People

anhonestquestionAn honest question.

With a couple days rest after the 4 federal by elections, time for everyone involved to set down the arms and put away the campaign battle gear, relax, and maybe someone could tell me what’s with all the political party tribalism, folks?

I am acquainted with many of you out there, some in person, many via social media, and most of you strike me as very civil and fair-minded. Disagreements I’ve had with a few of you have been largely cordial and have seldom ended in rancorous words. A few scratches and scrapes but no lasting scars.

But get you in election mode, in the trenches to defend your brand loyalty, who are you people? I don’t recognize you. All sniping and in your face, at each others’ throats for wearing the wrong colours. Canvassers and get out the voters? More like soccer hooligans.

OK, OK. A bit of an exaggeration but I have to tell you, following along with all the back and forth over the last month or so (and the last provincial general election), through the vitriol and just plain ol’ surliness between warring camps, is somewhat off-putting. soccerhooligansWhile we can point to many valid reasons for a lack of political engagement and lots of apathy, for me, this bitter intra-squad rivalry is seriously off-putting.

My voting days date back to the 1980 federal election. I have cast a ballot, at one time or another, for all four of the major parties available to us here in Ontario. Politically unfaithful, you might call me. I’ve had my favourites for sure, trending in one direction for a period of time before heading off in another. Come each election I’d like to consider myself something of a free agent.

Since I’d long ago disavowed conservatism in its modern permutation as a kind of politics worth paying much attention to, it didn’t seem at all odd to me that its tribalism was in evidence. It had become a club I no longer had any interested in. So there was a certain us-versus-them sensibility. opentosuggestions(It didn’t help that many adherents to the conservative cause were out and out bat shit crazy.)

But I have to tell you, watching the other parties in election mode kinda, sorta gives me the willies too. There’s a cult-like feel of infallibility to the dear leaders and candidates that gives me pause. I might even be able to get my head around that if it also didn’t include the vicious lashing out at opponents in the race. It’s not enough to simply put forth all the reasons why your candidate/leader/party of choice should get your vote but it’s as if all opposition must be destroyed in the process.

I’m at a point where I’ve come to dread the onset of provincial and federal campaigns.

I remain convinced by smart people that a party system is integral to the proper functioning of a parliamentary democracy. Sometimes it’s just difficult to remember that when your disenchantment with the whole process stems, in some part, from your distaste of how political parties go about their business. It’s tough to see the forest through all those annoying trees.

What you can’t persuade me of, however, is that a party system will bring order to our rather fractious, messy municipal government. No, that’s not quite right. partyloyaltyPolitical parties might bring order but it would be an order like we see now in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park. At a distance, once removed from the contact voters now have with their councillors and mayor who have to answer directly to their constituents without (at least officially) having to factor in the demands of the party they also represent.

Besides, I’m not entirely sure party politics didn’t play a part in the fiasco that was Scarborough subway debate at city council earlier this year. All 3 provincial parties, jockeying for the pole position on the transit file, using their municipal surrogates to move the checker pieces. It was mess not solely created by a dysfunctional city council.

And I worry too about further intrusion by political parties and partisanship into our municipal election campaign next year.

It’ll be hard to avoid, obviously, if Olivia Chow, NDP MP, does decide to run for mayor. 24hourpartypeople1I’ve got nothing against Ms. Chow, having voted for her at both a federal and municipal level. But if that race takes on the ugly traits I’ve witnessed during the last couple elections and by elections, it can only dampen enthusiasm for and interest in the election. That’s the last thing we need to see here in 2014, a turned off electorate.

I want to be part of a movement next year not a party apparatchik. I want that movement to be a progressive one that seeks to build a city in a more inclusive, generous, equitable, sustainable way and promises a better way of life to the residents of Toronto instead of shortchanging them and calling it respect. If certain party mechanisms are in place to help with that, aces. If not, well, let’s all remember what is we’re fighting for. People before party.

unaffiliatedly submitted by Cityslikr