Dirty pool

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What lesson should we take from today’s election south of the border? Well, perhaps that when elections devolve to lowest common denominator, no one is served. Not the candidates, not the voters, and almost certainly, not the nation.

It has been a battle of candidates being caught in half-truths and untruths, of private individuals trying to skew the election in their favour using  the massive funding of political action committees, of attack ads and public vilification.

The campaign has served to further polarize an already-polarized electorate, one where the opposite sides now regularly dismiss their opponents’ arguments without even beginning to address the salient points in the debate, and one where the truth depends not on facts, but on whose version you blindly accept.

It’s a sad state of affairs for a once-great democracy.

Sure, attack ads are successful and relatively cheap. Sure, it’s easier to cast your opponent as a villain than it is to explain how and why you are actually a better option to actually solve problems. Sure, legal challenges and dirty tricks can buy you crucial slim-margin victories in tight races.

But sometimes, the questions shouldn’t be, “What can we gain?” and “What can we get away with?”

Sometimes, it has to be, “Is this really the right thing to be doing?”

There’s plenty for us to learn from the battle.

Politics in Canada is becoming an increasingly nasty game of things like character assassination and computer tracking voters’ views to divide and conquer using carefully honed niche messages that sometimes even contradict themselves — but campaigning here is not yet the polarized, facts-challenged morass that exists in the U.S.

We don’t have the same level of hateful talk radio, where your political opponents are cast as being one step short of the Antichrist. Nor do we have hugely rich players using their capital to buy acceptance of — or merely impose — their personal politics on others using massive advertising campaigns. (Watching television on American stations in the last few weeks has been an exercise in political slander at levels that are virtually unimaginable in most progressive democracies.)

We have to recognize, though, that even in this country, we are somewhere along that slippery slope. Issues have become secondary to personality and personal attacks and we are letting ourselves be persuaded more about campaigns that hinge on what we don’t want, rather than what we do want. And procedural dirty tricks? Well, fraudulent robocalls were happily imported from south of us by someone.

Campaigns are certainly about winning, but there has to be a point when we all ask a simple question: “At what cost?”

U.S. President Barack Obama might have won the last U.S. presidential election on a promise of hope that he was subsequently unable to deliver.

But when the promise becomes something closer to institutionalized hate, no one wins.

Geographic location: U.S., Canada

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  • Avoir Obama
    November 06, 2012 - 17:07

    Woo Hoo! No More Obama after tonight. No more of his socalist ideals masked as democratic infecting us here too!

    • david
      November 07, 2012 - 14:50

      First....oooops. Second: socialist ideals infected this place a loooooong time ago, pal....the U.S. rightly looks at Canada as a "leper colony" of socialists. So best keep your smugness to yourself.

  • Herb Morrison
    November 06, 2012 - 10:44

    Comments made by the individual, who penned this particular piece, serve to demonstrate that, at least in the political arena, there is nothing new under the sun. In my sixty plus years, I have seen politicians come, strut their stuff on the political stage, and then for the most part, disappear into political exile and relative oblivion. Similarily, dirty politics in various forms, has always been a part of the political game. Anyone who recoils in amazement, disgust, or shock when politicians of any political stripe resort to the use of tactics, which appear questionable at best, from either a moral or ethical standpoint, is either ignorant of the rules, of political gamesmanship, or lack thereof,past or present, or is possibly blinded by their own political bias, which favors a particular political party. Furthermore, the "I don't give a damn" attitude (APATHY) demonstrated during the latest Federal Election campaign, only serves to result in people who I personally either "wouldn't trust any farther than I could throw them,"or people who lack the necessaey talents to govern, being entrusted with deciding how the Country should be Governed. At the Federal level, Canadians are paying a high price for their apathy toward what is happening in that particular arena. Since there are several years left in the Harper Governments' present mandate, given to them by sixty per cent of eligible voters, in the last Election, it can only be assumed that the hurting, at the hands of the Harper Government, which has already afflicted large numbers of Canadians, has only begun. Nope, nothing under the sun has changed in the world of politics in my lifetime. Ask yourself, who is to blame?

  • Taylor
    November 06, 2012 - 10:19

    The author of this editorial is ill-informed, if not downright delusional, if he or she really believes that Canadian politics is less divisive or more fact-based than US politics. US presidential debates are far more focused on facts and policies than the Canadian leaders debates. As for Canada not having hateful talk radio shows that cast political opponents as evil, have you listened to VOCM lately? The quality of political discourse in Canada is far worse than that in the US. The Harper government actually deserves some credit for banning corporate and union donations to parties and candidates, increasing reporting requirements for campaigns, and preventing political staffers from becoming lobbyists. But only we, the voting public, can actually change the political culture of Canada. And the first step is to inform ourselves about policy issues and vote on that basis.

  • theTroops
    November 06, 2012 - 09:14

    Let's not forget opportunistic mentions of "Our brave men and women in uniform" Neither candidate cares a whole lot about the vets or the troops considering the conditions they live in, the care they don't get, the pay they don't get and if they had any real respect at all, they'ed leave the troops out of the political rhetoric. My cousin didn't die so some moron could take advantage of him to win an election...and then cut benefits.

  • theTroops
    November 06, 2012 - 09:08

    Let's not forget opportunistic mentions of "Our brave men and women in uniform" Neither candidate cares a whole lot about the vets or the troops considering the conditions they live in, the care they don't get, the pay they don't get and if they had any real respect at all, they'ed leave the troops out of the political rhetoric. My cousin didn't die so some moron could take advantage of him to win an election...and then cut benefits.