Two stories, a country apart, shine light on the very high stakes in politics and the very deep lows that politicians will go to in order to keep themselves in the offices to which they have become accustomed.
First, to Florida, where a judge issued a blunt attack on the way Republican legislators redrew electoral boundaries, a move that tilted the electoral scales in their own favour.
“What is clear to me from the evidence,” the judge wrote, “is that this group of Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process.”
(Read the judgment itself — it’s a hoot http://bit.ly/1seIFD6.)
Documents were destroyed before they could get to court and there was an attempt to seal others as political trade secrets — documents that later showed, according to the judge, “a conspiracy to influence and manipulate the legislature into a violation of its constitutional duty.”
In one district, the boundaries narrowed until a significant length of the district was the width of a highway, connecting two disparate parts of the state as one voting district. Another district had a curious wrap-around finger sticking off it that mysteriously included a section of strong Republican support — allowing a Republican to win the district. How did political consultants achieve their goals? In part by having individuals present evidence to redistribution hearings as “concerned citizens,” even though they were reading scripts prepared by political consultants.
The second story? Considerably more petty: Alberta, according to its provincial licence plates, has been Wild Rose Country for more than 30 years. Except not anymore — the Progressive Conservative government of the province has decided to drop the slogan and put the province’s website on the plates instead, all the while insisting that the fact their major opposition is that province’s Wildrose party has had nothing to do with the change.
The Wildrose party’s Rob Anderson doesn’t agree, telling the National Post, “This is another symbolic change the PCs have made that (demonstrates) everything people don’t like about them right now: that they’re arrogant, petty, incompetent and they can’t get the simple things right.”
Perhaps. And perhaps Anderson isn’t above scoring a few easy political points himself.
Don’t forget: even at something as simple a level as provincial or state politics, there are big stakes, both financial and personal.
Scrabbling to keep yourself safely ensconced on the government side — even if you believe you are the absolute best person and your party is the best party to run the place — can include all manner of small-minded and petty behaviour, from robocall dirty tricks to election spending violations to electoral act changes that would keep groups of voters who might not support you from having a ballot.
The judge in the Florida case had this to say about the potential dangers of political parties, quoting George Washington: “they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
The bottom line? Be mindful. There’s often a difference between what you’re being told, and what is actually fact.