Politics: The Art of the Possible?
The Liberal Party of Canada kicked off its National Policy Convention yesterday with a barn-burner of a speech by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau – if it was a very small barn. For a profession (and I use that term loosely) like politics which relies heavily on inspirational oratory, we’re almost penniless these days.
Politics has become vicious, overly partisan, and about as inspirational as over-cooked asparagus.
We no longer have any of the great orators; the great speakers we once had. Now it’s all talking points targeted to small, special interest groups identified by overly-analyzed polls. It is not only dividing us it is eroding our democracy.
Great leaders inspire people to unite behind a vision or to face a crisis together. They use words like artists use paint and music and poetry. They create ideas that bring people together and they lead their nations forward.
It isn’t just the ability to speak well that’s important; Barack Obama is proof that empty rhetoric delivered well is still nothing more than empty rhetoric. It’s the combination of passion and innovative ideas expressed with confidence and without the need to act like a thug against your opponents that inspires people. In other words, the willingness to stand for something rather than merely oppose something else and the ability to excite people about what it is you believe and that you want to achieve.
Ronald Regan was one of those leaders.
His ability to communicate even unpopular ideas is almost legendary. He had a natural charm and relaxed delivery that was at the same time disarming but underscored a strong sense of purpose and conviction. He didn’t feel the need to beat the bejesus out of his opponents because he believed in what he stood for and was able to deliver that in a positive, motivating way.
John F. Kennedy was another. Kennedy’s words are still quoted today by liberals and conservatives because they meant something when they were spoken and still do.
Compare that to the political leaders of today; John Boehner, Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Barack Obama and Hollande of France, Cameron of Britain or Hillary Clinton.
Where’s the beef?
These folks, especially here in Canada, have reduced citizens to little more than being taxpayers and voters when we are actually much more than that. We are citizens. It is our country, our nation and they are elected to serve us not rule, manipulate or bore us to death.
In Ontario, despite the economic holocaust the Liberals have wrought, the Wynne government has moved forward on new educational requirements for barbers and tossed raises to the same teachers whose salaries they had frozen six month earlier rather than seriously address economic issues. That’s hardly the kind of leadership, let alone fundamental thinking, that inspires anyone.
Forget the Trans Canada Highway, the National Railway, The St. Lawrence Seaway or landing on the moon, our current crop of federal leaders can’t even get a bloody pipeline built despite the fact that it would create thousands of jobs, would not contribute to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and would serve the economies of both Canada and the United States very well.
They can’t get it built because they are held hostage by politics and lack the will, the ability and the confidence to lead rather than pursue power and privilege for their own sake. They come to office full of promises that they reverse with all of the dexterity of a champion figure skater landing a quad.
The party doesn’t matter. It’s politics.
The Liberals in Ontario broke 75 election promises in the first six months of their first term in office and grew to like it so much that they just kept making more promises they never kept. The federal conservatives reversed themselves on income trusts, senate reform and lately, income splitting. And just this week, PC Leader Tim Hudak backed away from his two-year commitment to overturn the Rand formula and give people the right to work without joining a union.
They are cynical cowards, afraid to defend principle for fear it cost them an election.
It shows in their speeches. They are people with little ideas and small visions; people who would trade increased apprenticeship opportunities and maintaining existing levels of service to our veterans in order to toss a few million to maintain snowmobile trails for some other special interest – as presented in Canada’s most recent federal budget.
They strut; they preen, they pontificate and they criticize and attack each other but they can’t even write their own tweets on Twitter. It’s a protracted process involving strategists and bureaucrats that can take upwards of a week just to write a 140 character message.
They are a world unto themselves where right and wrong are not predicated on morality or values but on winning. Nothing else matters and these, my friends, are the guys who think that they are qualified to tell the rest of us how to live.
I got thinking about this last night as I watched Justin Trudeau speak at the Liberal Policy Convention. For a guy who has been doing quite well pretty much on nothing more than personality and good looks, it wasn’t a very inspiring speech. It was long on hope and short on substance which may, in fact, be a deliberate strategy but surely to God it isn’t part of the strategy to be flat and dull in the delivery of a speech about hope.
Good Lord! If you’re going to imitate someone when delivering a speech why on earth would you imitate Stephen Harper’s delivery?
I believe that the next election will be as much about likability as policy. In fact, when push comes to shove, I believe that Canadians are pretty much fed up with the acrimony, the micro-targeting of different groups, the uber-partisanship and the outright thuggery of politics these days. I believe people want a leader they not only can believe in but that they actually like, trust and are proud to have represent them.
The late Jack Layton was a socialist and yet, he was so well liked, he drew support from well beyond his normal political boundaries and even his opponents tended to treat him with respect.
Imagine what this country would be like if we had a Jack Layton type leading the Conservative or Liberal parties – a person who not only had a good-natured likeability and who could deliver an inspiring speech but who actually stood for something and remained consistent in his principles.
That would be a leader who would, I believe, crush opposition to his or her election and without the need for dirty tricks, negative advertising or violations of the Elections Act.
That would be a leader worth following but I don’t see any coming down the road and I seriously doubt that any of the current crop will learn how to be anything but what they have already proven themselves to be.
Politics used to be important, inspiring and interesting. Now it is mean-spirited, partisan gamesmanship by a raft of uninspired and uninspiring people more focused on privilege and power than nation building or leadership. If politics is meant to be the art of the possible, our political leaders have turned it into nothing more than a vicious and foolish mediocrity.
They are petty people with petty ideas.
God help us!
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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