Politics today… terribly unforgiving and openly hostile.

“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people”

Oscar Wilde

 

Gary Mason just published a piece in the Globe and Mail which we should be concerned about. Actually those who should be  most concerned are those of us who work in or with government.

Mason tells us that: Of the names being speculated as a possible successor to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, one of the more intriguing has been 2010 Olympic boss John Furlong. That his name has surfaced among the possible list of contenders isn’t a great surprise. Mr. Furlong would appear to have all the qualities and characteristics that we desire in a politician. He is smart, charismatic and a proud Canadian who served his country in the finest tradition by overseeing one of the toughest, most complicated projects in the nation’s history.

 

 

“I’m both moved and flattered by the number of people who are urging me to consider taking a run at the job, but honestly I just don’t think I’m cut out for the sacrifices of a politician’s life,” Mr. Furlong stated. “It seems like there is no bottom to how cruel we can be to each other. I believe very much in people and in service and the power of a compelling vision to bring people together, but I just cannot imagine being effective in an environment that has become so terribly unforgiving and openly hostile.”

 


Well at least Mr. Furlong is being honest but how many other smart and intelligent capable people in Canada and the USA are we losing because they do not find politics a field worth pursuing. There is no question that we have too many professional politicians. Some have clearly reached “their best before date”. We also have populated our political class with the most acrimonious group of people in memory (at least in the past 50 years). Don’t we want some new blood from other fields including people who have stellar reputations in the private, academic and  not-for profit sector in our parliaments, legislatures and congress?

There is no question that serving your country or region is important and we want the best and brightest to get involved in politics but why should they?  If you are very successful in your chosen field, the salaries of politicians are not that great and if you are so lucky to get elected you become a target for the media (especially 24 hour news channels) the tweetosphere and blogosphere and many social media channel.

If what they are saying about you is true are not is of no consequence. Anybody can say anything they want, about any politician, it is a total free for all. Rumours, fear mongering, all of it is part of the game. Taking pot shots at politicians’ families or his or her personal life is now part of the journalistic mix.

As Mason points out “You’d have to be nuts to want to run for politics today, let alone want to be a premier or prime minister. Forget the hours and a salary that is a fraction of what many politicians could be making in the private sector. It’s the mean-spiritedness that seems to define modern-day politics, the contempt with which elected officials are held regardless of party affiliation that makes such a career move so bewildering nowadays. The stuff sometimes said about politicians in the blogosphere is almost scary; it is saturated with so much hatred. And we’re all to blame for this – the public, the media and politicians themselves. “

Mason does not think that policies developed by politicians don’t deserve intense scrutiny and often criticism. Clearly this is an important part of democracy. But why has it become impossible for politicians and their respective parties to disagree respectfully anymore? Why is there no civility and respect for competing opinions and viewpoints?  As Mason states why do we all, media included, seem to begin from the premise that all politicians are cheats and liars whose only interests are self-interests?

It is terrible for democracy when the level of discourse is so low, so toxic, so appalling that leaders in other fields do not want any part of the poisoned atmosphere of politics. It’s very depressing that our best and brightest have no interest in public service.

Let’s hope we in Canada don’t continue to adopt the dirty politics that we are seeing in the USA which in many ways was created in modern times by political fixers like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. “Roveism” or Rovean tactics  as it is sometimes called has started to creep into Canadian politics over the past few years and we should be worried. Very worried!

People who can provide value added contributions to our country do not want to jump into the political arena because they are starting to perceive it as an unsavoury profession. Good people who are presently involved in the political system are not interested in continuing their career in public service and are leaving it. What is at stake here is our government and democracy. Canada could do better than our neighbours to the south who have  really polluted the political waters in recent years.  We would be wise to break out of this negativity  so that people like Furlong would be eager to participate in Canadian politics.

Let me know what you think.

“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber”

Plato

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