Monday, May 26, 2014

I'm so Damn Sick of Junk Politics and Hopefully Trudeau is Too

There is a good book by Benjamin DeMott Junk Politics: Trashing of the American Mind

DeMott laments the loss of intelligent debate in the political arena, being replaced, in part, with "touchy, feely personal testimonials" and "feel your pain" forced empathy.

In the current Ontario election campaign we've heard party leaders tell us that they worked their way through school, were a grandchild of immigrants and like to run.

Who cares? How is that relevant? Any identification we may have with them should end there. Our concern before we give them control of our money and in some respects, our lives; should not be about inconsequential shared life experiences; but the bigger picture of how they are going to create a better place for everyone.

During the 2008 federal leadership debate, when the topic was unemployment, Stephen Harper claimed that he understood the difficulties facing those out of work, having once been unemployed himself for eleven months.

However, when the media questioned him about it later, turns out that he wasn't really unemployed at all, but sat home for eleven months planning for an upcoming election, while his wife earned money printing material for his Reform Party. Hardly the same thing.

Later, when interviewed about the hardships facing Canadians as a result of the economic crisis, after suggesting that they could grab up bargains in the stock market, he said that his own mother was worried about her stock portfolio.

He was trying to suggest that he felt our pain, but couldn't pull it off. Not that it mattered. We shouldn't elect our representatives to feel our pain, but to alleviate it.

The growing reliance on soundbites and expectations of "just like us", are overshadowing the important issues, by "minimizing large complex problems" (DeMott), and redefining the traditional values of a just society.

Justin Trudeau and the Abortion Debate

I've been doing a lot of eye rolling over this media pet peeve of the week, but when someone I respect and admire weighs in, I pay attention.

Susan Delacourt entered the fray recently, and while I agree in part, I think she has missd the point.

Delacourt states that in 2005, when Stephen Harper was leader of the Opposition, he held a meeting with Hill journalists where he stated that his party
"... would not be having any policy at all on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Members would be totally free to hold their views, but the Conservative party would have no stated position on these matters."
Delacourt was not surprised by this, believing that Harper was a Libertarian. Rather amusing given that he had campaigned against Same-sex marriage, and did not allow his MPs to hold an opinion contrary to any that he deemed the party should hold.

Take the case of former Harper MP Larry Spencer, who in 2003, made some pretty disparaging remarks about homosexuals.

According to Spencer, Harper called him into his office and ripped into him: "You knew we wanted to run on the preservation of the traditional definition of marriage in the next election. Now we can't do that." Spencer went on to say that 'Is it any wonder that the Alliance Party was often being charged with having a secret agenda? When the truth cannot be disseminated, even to caucus members, just what should one believe?'(1)

Spencer's was not an isolated incident, as Stephen Harper has taken complete control of his caucus. Not even his cabinet ministers are allowed to speak to the press until they get their talking points from the PMO.

Calling Stephen Harper a Libertarian is like calling calling George Bush a humanitarian.

Perhaps Trudeau could have rephrased his message, but when the issue is simply messaging, then the problem lies not with the politicians, but with us.

If We Hope to Stop the Rise of Neoconservatism We Need To Think Big

There is little argument that one of the biggest problems we are facing today is income inequality. The rich continue to get richer while the rest of us are expected to keep them in the lifestyle they've grown accustomed to.

Lowering corporate tax is a form of corporate welfare, that rewards the top for refusing to work for the money we give them. Any downturn, no matter how slight, and the workers are the first to go. Profit trumps all.

Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962), economist and historian said: "A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this."

In their book Tax is Not a Four Letter Word, the Himelfarbs write: "American ambivalence turned to anger in the aftermath of the financial meltdown and the massive government bailouts."

And yet the Bush Tax Cuts were still implemented while government services were cut by a trillion dollars. And where were the cuts directed? At the poor, who were blamed for the economic situation, focusing attention away from the Wall Street gamblers and corporate freeloaders.

Tawney believed that the only way to implement real change, was not to focus on single inhumane acts, but the entire notion of social injustice. That's why the Civil Rights movement was so successful.

Justin Trudeau has to do the same. He wants to change the way that the Liberals do politics, focusing on Canadians and not the Party's woes.

The NDP are shifting to the right, to take up what they see as a vacant middle. Unfortunately, Canada's Conservatives have taken us so far to the right that the middle is now just to the left of Genghis Khan.

Progressives have lost their voice and the Liberals have an opportunity to be that voice. But no JUNK!

I want intelligent answers to addressing climate change, poverty, income inequality, racial discrimination and women's reproductive rights, to name a few.

So for the record Justin: your wife is lovely, your children are beautiful and you like to box. Good for you.

But what I want to know is how you're going to do things differently and steer Canada back to the way we were before the Neocon menace. And if that means laying down the law with your party, so be it.


1. SACRIFICED? TRUTH OR POLITICS, By Larry Spencer, Kayteebella Productions, 2004, ISBN 13-9780978057404


  1. You rock, Em.
    I was pleased, at first, when Justin Trudeau took over the helm of the Liberal party, but it is true, he is a lightweight. As much as I wanted him to be Pierre-all-over-again, he is not. And Pierre wasn't perfect, either, but he was a prime minister with the nation's needs at heart, not his own. Justin cares, I know, but the only way he will be able to lead is by having excellent advisors and by listening to them until he has grown up enough to understand the role he now wishes to take on.