Headlines

Loading...

wibiya widget

Sunday, May 8, 2011

#Cdnpoli: Have I got this all wrong?



Is it possible?

I don't know where this doubt is coming from, but I've been having second thoughts about a lot of what I've been saying. Maybe all the sniping and backbiting and recrimination's been more disheartening than I originally realized. Or maybe it's just a little Sunday-evening angst for my inner drama queen.

We've been looking for answers ever since Monday evening. Perhaps longer than that, in fact. Some of us have been talking about long-term ground war. Some of us have been talking about polarization. Some of us have been talking about building an extra-parliamentary opposition from the ground up. Some of us have been talking about building an alternative to the corporate media. Some of us have been talking about a fundamental realignment of Canada's political landscape and the attendant institutional shifts. And some of us have been flinging poo.

What's been gnawing at me is whether any of this is doing any good. Is there any evidence that the other side indulges in all this hand-wringing, soul-searching and second-guessing themselves? While they were in the wilderness, did they spend their time tearing strips off each other? Maybe I don't read the right web sites, but I'd imagine not. And I don't know what they say to each other in private, but I'd be willing to bet that whatever it is, they don't air it in public the way some folks on this side of the aisle have been doing.

They are organized, focused, unscrupulous and above all, disciplined. Ruthlessly disciplined. And they've succeeded.

Scandals, lies, distortions and contempt. Doesn't matter. Don't know how much of it stuck to them, but it wasn't enough. Whatever their faults, and there were plenty, they stuck to a well-thought-out strategy based on simplistic messages calculated to appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Throw the bums out.
Gravy trains.
People are tired of elections and bickering politicians.
Standing up for Canada.
Smears, personal attacks and contempt.

Yeah, it's bullshit. Doesn't matter. It works.

So it's tempting, in that light, to forget all the high-minded dedication to principle, and admit that all my arguments about citizenship and civil discourse and obligation are just so much sanctimonious wankery. The logical extension of that, unfortunately, is to embrace Realpolitik – forget fairness and sportsmanship, and play just as dirty as the other side. It's a nasty game. They have no problem swarming us, blindsiding us and kicking us when we're down. It's time we started doing the same.

But that's got some disturbing implications as well. Doesn't that drag us down to their level, and make us no better than them? Isn't being more ethical, more conscientious, more principled the whole point of being progressive? If we're no better than the other side, then what the hell are we doing?

The obvious rejoinder to that is: hey, be as righteous and moral as you like. Look where it got you. Impotent and irrelevant. The other side won because they were willing to play dirty. Slime, hypocrisy and appeals to the lizard brains work. You want to win? Go and do likewise.

Ah, but then: what does that say about how we think of our fellow citizens? The people whose support we need to earn? The people we need to persuade to get out and engage? The other side clearly thinks of them as disengaged, easily manipulated fools, and tailors its strategy accordingly. Are we willing to do politics, partisan or not, on the basis of contempt for our neighbours?

I'm sorry friends, it's late Sunday night and I'm tired and I just don't have an answer. I'm willing to consider the possibility that tactically, and even strategically, I've been wrong about all this. I'm open to suggestion.

Related posts:


9 comments:

  1. Yeah, hi, poo-flinger here. (I kid.) I still haz a nauseous super-naus. What I see on teh tweeter isn't helping. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  2. All your points are both cogent and well-presented. Yes, it's cynical and it's vicious... but cynical and vicious works. It's sad and unpleasant, but the evil do tend to prosper.

    If our tactics are failing, perhaps it IS time to shift tactics. The average citizen and the average voter are just that - average. They either do not bother to think about the consequences of their actions or they are failing to tell the difference between lies and truth.

    Appealing to their intelligence and better nature is failing. Perhaps there's something to be said for appealing to the lowest common denominator.

    It's not as though the left doesn't have things they could put forward: free medical care, cheaper drug plans, free dentistry, fighting for unions, more jobs and better paying ones... the Left have things to offer, they just have to be willing to stoop a little.

    If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Don't lower yourself or we become the other.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps this is pie in the sky. But I believe that one of life's axioms is simply: What goes around comes around.

    The Harper government's Achilles Heel has always been its arrogance. It's economic plan is a ticket to stagnation and more social inequity. Its triumph is also the source of its undoing.

    When that day comes, progressives will need an overarching vision and a plan. That's where the work has to be done.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't agree, Jan. The only thing we can truly control is our intent. If our intent in pushing for a progressive government is to make life better for everyone, then we are already one step up from the selfish and grasping Conservatives.

    So long as our motivations are selfless, we cannot become the enemy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It was a shitty campaign. Layton spent more time attacking Ignatieff than harper.

    (Of course, the Libs started off targeting the NDP and their strategy had been to ignore the NDP as irrelevant and not out of some recognition of the common enemy).

    I saw hardly any mentioning of the seriousness of the contempt issue. I heard nothing about war crimes and cover-ups. There was hardly any attack on the harpercons' economic incompetence. (That was already conceded to the inherent voter belief that the "conservatives" are competent economic managers no matter what.)

    That's why we lost. harper's majority was a close thing in enough ridings.

    The opposition failed to rally the people.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "...I don't know what they say to each other in private, but I'd be willing to bet that whatever it is, they don't air it in public". You're right, they don't. They move discourse out of the public sphere and into secret. When they speak in public, they speak in code; it is their intention to be misunderstood by all but their own kind.

    It's a tactical advantage, but it's wrong. And it was ever thus. The bad guys always have the tactical advantage of being prepared to lie, cheat and steal. A good guy whose prepared to lie, cheat and steal is just a bad guy in sheep's clothing. Virtue is almost never its own reward.

    Doesn't matter. We have to keep trying.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks, all, for reading and for weighing in. A special appeal to Margarita del Norte to resubmit your comment, which was unfortunately eaten by the Google demons during the recent unpleasantness.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "...I don't know what they say to each other in private, but I'd be willing to bet that whatever it is, they don't air it in public". You're right, they don't. They move discourse out of the public sphere and into secret. When they speak in public, they speak in code; it is their intention to be misunderstood by all but their own kind.
    It's a tactical advantage, but it's wrong. And it was ever thus. The bad guys always have the tactical advantage of being prepared to lie, cheat and steal. A good guy whose prepared to lie, cheat and steal is just a bad guy in sheep's clothing. Virtue is almost never its own reward.
    Doesn't matter. We have to keep trying.
    (...authentically reposted)

    ReplyDelete

Share