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It’s Not Politics (or Business) – It’s Personal

Politics has often been called a blood sport although I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Politicians by their nature really don’t have the courage to shed blood other than in war and invariably it is never their blood that gets shed. Admittedly, however, politics is rough and so it has always been.

But – it has never been quite as personal as it has become in recent years.

It’s no longer just a clash of ideologies or public policy. It’s not even just a clash of egos. Lately, it has become a conflict of vested self-interest and personal prejudices devoid of much in the way of socially redeeming value or even the national interest.

Consider Barack Obama.

Here’s a man who was granted a significant place in history and who has successfully avoided doing anything meaningful with it for six years. He is the President of the most powerful military nation on earth, the globe’s leading economy and the world’s most open democratic republic – and the best he can do with all of that is dither on major issues or attack his opponents on a very personal level.

His signature legislation, the Affordable Health Care Act, is a complete failure which only succeeded in driving up the cost of medical insurance and disenfranchising many who had coverage before the AHCA was implemented. He refused to take responsibility for the tragic fiasco in Benghazi and in fact lied about it and his deer-in-the-headlights approach to avoiding a decision on the Keystone pipeline makes Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, look positively decisive. Premier Wynne has demonstrated an unbelievable ability to avoid making a decision on anything except which special interest group to give more taxpayer money in order to buy votes and avoid personal criticism.

It isn’t working out too well for either of them but the current crop of political leaders aren’t especially known for their intellectual quotients either.

Through it all Obama has defended his lack of actions by attacking the opposition; not because he believed in his position but because his ego would not permit the admission of failure or having made a mistake that needed fixing. His public policy and leadership is personal and his primary concern. Much of the time it is done on a whim or is based on personal popularity polls and the best interests of his nation and the people are rendered secondary to his personal self-image.

He isn’t alone in having crossed the line that separates partisan politics and personal prejudice and ego.

It is an alarming trend with politicians in democratic nations around the world and no more so than right here in the Great White Mediocrity.

Consider the latest legislation being put forward by the Conservative Harper government; the Fair Elections Act. The name alone makes me roll my eyes and I honestly believe sometimes that it isn’t so much what the Conservatives say and do that annoys me but rather how they say and do it.

They are incapable of introducing legislation without demonizing someone or some group. Civil servants, the Elections Commissioner, Liberals, charities, activist groups, the media; all are enemies on a very personal level. What they do legislate or pontificate on is over the over-the-top self-aggrandizing hyperbole and rhetoric which is a very poor substitute for good governance and true leadership.

Canada already has an Elections Act – we’re not complete barbarians despite what some Europeans think of us. It has some problems and needs to be reformed. The Harper government has drafted legislation to reform the act but couldn’t bring itself to simply call it an act to reform – it had to have the grand Fair Elections Act title as if all previous elections had been unfair.

Well – actually the last three elections have had some serious issues but coincidentally, we didn’t have very many of those same issues before the Conservatives took office.

But I digress.

The new legislation has some good elements to it which do address some of the issues that needed addressing like separating the administrative function related to running an election from the investigative function of any wrong-doing. It also brings in new requirements related to robo calls which were at the heart of many of the issues in previous elections but – and there is always a but – the Conservatives couldn’t avoid making it personal.

They refused to consult with the current Commissioner of Elections about the changes+ because – well – they don’t like him. He investigated them and despite the fact that he had investigated and also charged both Liberals and the NDP with illegal funding and election activities; the Conservatives take the position that if you criticize them you’re the enemy.

The new act has a number of provisions that have less to do with reforming elections and putting in new safeguards than they do with punishing the current Elections Commissioner. It’s personal – not political. They don’t like him and so he gets slapped publicly despite the fact that some of those provisions may not be in the best interest of Canadians.

Conservatives take politics personally.

How else can you explain the hypocrisy of criticizing Justin Trudeau for his admission of smoking a joint but their silence (for the most part) and outright sympathetic support (from some) of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford despite his lies, his binge drinking and his admission of smoking both weed and crack.

Justin Trudeau was labeled a danger to children for smoking one joint. Rob Ford was identified as having a personal problem for which Conservatives hoped he would get help.

Consider also Jason Kenney petulant actions last week when Oxfam Canada and their spokesperson Scarlett Johansson parted company. Oxfam is opposed to the Israeli settlements on the West Bank and when Ms Johansson became spokesperson for Sodastream; an Israeli company now building a new factory on the West Bank. Mr. Kenney took personal umbrage with Oxfam’s decision and denounced it publicly despite the fact that Government of Canada which has taken the official position that, in fact, the settlements are illegal.

Mr. Kenney didn’t care a whip. He was personally offended and attacked Oxfam; an organization that has been fighting poverty and done incredible work world-wide since 1963.

But then, the Conservatives are establishing a bit of a reputation for cutting funding and demonizing those organizations including charities that they don’t like. The value of their contribution to this world means nothing to them.

The bottom line is that politics has become too personal as if the offices to which we elect these folks actually belong to them. Despite the fact that they actually represent us; they allow their personal prejudices to become the order of the day rather than defending and representing Canadian – not personal – values.

Look no further than Rob Ford; the poster boy for self-indulgent prejudice. Municipalities across Canada and in other countries are flying the rainbow flag in support of gay athletes competing at Sochi. Ford ordered it taken down at Toronto City Hall despite the fact that a majority in the city wanted it flown to show their support.

In Ford’s mind, his personal prejudices are more important than his responsibility to represent the people.

This past week the Prime Minister sent out a message extending his best wishes and support of Canadian athletes at the Olympics. Our Olympic team is comprised of men, women, liberals, conservatives, people of colour, gays, straights, Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus, agnostics and atheists. I believe there may even be a couple of stupid people in there somewhere. In other words; our Olympic team is a cross section of Canadian society.

The Prime Minister extended to them all, regardless of their individual characteristics, his best wishes. It is unfortunate that he, and politicians like him, can’t bring that same egalitarianism to governance.

Politics was bad enough when it was merely partisan. It’s of real concern that politicians don’t see, but don’t actually care, that it is they that are the real threat to national unity and our democracies now that politics is only personal.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • matthew brandley

    The dysfunction by both goverments in our countries is best described as followes. They no longer care about why they where elected into office other than for the need of there own self and what best suits them and what they get out of the deals that they can creat for there own interests. Public be damned! Jeffeson said that the freedon tree must be nourished with the blood of freedom fighters on occasion to keep it surviving. I see that time comming very shortly in the U S

    • MaggiesBear

      I see it coming in many places where people think it will never happen. We’ve already seen bloodshed in places like Libya, Syria and Greece. You can only subjugate and misuse people for so long before they revolt. The only real question for each country is what form of revolution will erupt: violent or political?