The dysfunctionality of the Western political model is becoming alarmingly apparent – to all who would care to look at facts. I am hard pressed to look at any jurisdiction past the municipal level where there is not a deepening schism polarizing and separating various political interests. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to parse the problem down to the lowest common denominator.
For the most part, municipal politicians are independents, elected by the constituents based on the reputation and demonstrable performance record of the individuals themselves. When a common gap exists in philosophy or political intent, a ‘bridge’ is built to span the difference in opinion or intent. There is a recognition that there is limit on the availability of resources – and a recognition that the principle of ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ must be followed, having in mind that the rights of the minority must always be considered and respected.
In practical terms, one municipal councillor approaches the others with an idea or an initiative. This may come from the individual or from the constituency that the individual represents – represents as an elected ‘trustee’ pledged to act in the best interests of those who elected that individual. Other individuals, who share that same ‘trustee’ or ‘stewardship’ role, duly elected in their own right, discuss options, opportunities and the availability of resources necessary to complete those ideas or initiatives.
Inevitably, there is a limit to available resources and that leads to one of the indisputable facts of political accountability – that the distribution of ‘common wealth’ (now you know where the term commonwealth originates) is a prima facie responsibility of those who govern.
In simple terms, we all throw money (tax dollars) into a pot. Municipal politicians decide how much money comes out of the pot to spend on various initiatives. Some are obvious and generally acceptable, i.e. wages for road maintenance, construction/maintenance of sewage treatment plants, reservoirs for the availability/distribution of clean drinking water et cetera.
Other initiatives are highly contentious – and often self-serving. From simple frivolities such as construction of UFO landing pads to such white elephants as committing to Olympic Games hosting that cost taxpayers into the Billions of dollars for decades to come are examples that come to mind. Still, that is as far as a municipal politician can go concerning management (or mismanagement) since there is a comparatively small pot of money that can be spent – or wasted.
Once we transcend the comparatively transparent nature of municipal politics, we delve into the fetid, murky swamp of provincial, state, federal politics – and the ‘game’ changes substantially.
That, in itself, is a huge part of the problem. Far too many politicians treat politics as a ‘game’ wherein winning or losing becomes far more important than responsibility and accountability to voters. Truth, integrity, fiduciary trust, responsible financial stewardship – all have become afterthoughts in the minds of all too many politicians who are putting the expressed interests of the ‘party’ ahead of the welfare and the stewardship of the ‘common wealth’ of those who have elected those individuals to office.
A political party has become analogous to a sports team where the ultimate ambition is to ‘win’. At the end of the day, it just matters that your team ‘wins’ and it apparently does not matter so much what tactics, intrigues or ‘trick plays’ were used to achieve that ‘victory’.
What is worse, the supporters of most political parties are no more sophisticated than ‘fans’ at a sporting event, supporting their team (party) no matter what transgressions have been committed – and obvious to all but the most deliberately myopic.
Objectivity has no role in most sports – and it appears to have a diminishing role in politics. Everyone, from the political ‘players’ on the field to the ‘bums in the bleachers’ (the electorate) to the ‘play by play commentators’ (the Media Party) have become so fixated on ‘wins and losses’ and supporting their favourite team (party) that most have forgotten that politics isn’t a game – and shouldn’t be treated like one.
At the end of the day, politicians are spending taxpayer dollars and politicians are fully responsible and accountable for that fiduciary trust. Fiduciary trust is a principle in law and it would do most people a lot of good to familiarize themselves with the concept – and the reason that the concept exists.
Unfortunately, human nature creates lazy (sometimes deviously so) individuals – and lazy practices. We are all guilty.
Politicians get lazy and quickly forget the promises made to the people who elected them.
The people who elected the politicians get lazy and forget to maintain vigilance, holding politicians accountable.
The Media Party gets lazy and forgets to report (more likely chooses to ignore) facts that provide voters with meaningful feedback concerning the performance of politicians. Increasingly, most Media are focusing instead on sensationalistic and controversial stories intended on attracting advertising dollars and reader/viewer/listener subscription or market share.
We are all culpable. We are all guilty.
Examples abound – continuously.
In Canada, PM Trudeau has done nothing to create a viable, financial model for growth and sustainability – in fact, he is eroding the very Canadian values that have made Canada great in the 20th century. He is, instead, insidiously replacing those values with ‘global’, increasingly international ‘visions’ that will subvert the Canadian identity and transfer vast amount of wealth to international, ‘feel good’, media gullible initiatives. How many people remember that he is using your tax dollars (and borrowing your children’s legacy) in order to achieve that misguided media adulation? Or that the Liberal Party has deliberately created this unsustainable false Utopia (at your expense)?
How many people are tired of the incessant ‘photo ops’ and seemingly endless ‘vacations’ that clearly indicate that Trudeau is not particularly interested in acting as a Prime Minister – or a servant of the people? We have elected a naive, immature media pop star elitist with inadequate knowledge, ethics or a moral compass capable of actually doing the job responsibly – the job of managing the best interests of Canadians, affordably and accountably.
We all turn a blind eye to the facts – and allow the Media Party to obscure the truth by publishing cute pictures of Trudeau hugging childrens’ toys and falling out of kayaks. Instead we should demand that the Media Party report on concerning issues including NAFTA renegotiations and an increasingly critical border crisis.
The US has its own increasingly alarming problem of non-governance. The divide between Republicans and Democrats has become so wide that there is virtually no common ground to be had. Each side spins its own half-truths, obscures and tries to bury unacceptable deceitful practices (secret meetings between Clinton and Lynch,as an example) and has ‘friendly’ media who have lost sight of, and lost interest in, journalistic integrity and real news.
I am not interested in the ‘opinion’ of media pundits. I am interested in the facts so that I can form my own opinion.
In BC, we have far too many examples of political party incompetence and irresponsibility. As bad as the BC Liberals governed in their own self-interest, the GreeNDP ‘not a coalition’ has not proven itself to be any more capable.
The case of Gordon Wilson’s potential lawsuit is a prime example. The allegation was made that Wilson did virtually nothing to earn the half million dollars he collected as the ‘point man’ on the failed LNG initiative so proudly proclaimed, irresponsibly, by the government of Christy Clark. In order to make ‘political points’ in the ‘game’ of BC politics, the NDP loudly (and apparently incorrectly) denounced (and fired) Wilson as a political opportunist who never filed reports or otherwise earned the excessive salary to which he was considered entitled by the Clark Liberals.
The facts appear to be clearly indicating that the NDP, including John Horgan, has in fact misrepresented (possibly legally defamed and slandered/libeled) Wilson with potential legal consequences – to be paid for by the taxpayer of BC. So, the taxpayer loses once again. We ‘buy’ the myth of LNG wealth, we pay Wilson over half a million dollars to perpetuate the myth and we may possibly pay legal fees, court costs and damages if Wilson chooses to sue the BC government and is successful in his suit.
So how does all of this relate to political parties and the erosion of real democracy?
Simply because personal accountability, personal responsibility and personal culpability have been lost. They have been replaced by the murky myth of collective responsibility being equally effective – a hive mentality where personal integrity and individual morality cannot, and do not, exist. At the end of the day, the ‘collective’ assumes the responsibility – and the ‘collective’ pays for transgressions and failures as well as successes. Not a single individual has to stand up and accept responsibility in any consequential way.
In my mind, Wilson should be entitled to sue the individual(s) who allegedly ‘besmirched’ his reputation, rather than effectively suing every taxpayer in BC. Why should you have to pay for the transgressions of your elected MLA’s? The MLA’s, of course, hide behind the skirts of legislative privilege and the ‘culpability of the whole’, not the accountability of the individual. Meanwhile, you pay as the taxpayer.
It has become ‘acceptable’ for outgoing Premier Christy Clark to ‘lie’ about 100% support from her caucus colleagues even as MLA Dr. Darryl Plecas indicates that he was ready to leave the Liberal caucus if Clark remained leader.
It has become ‘acceptable’ for the Media Party to flog ‘Fake News’, vilifying Trump for unproven innuendos and unsubstantiated involvements with Russia while deliberately, and with malice aforethought, conveniently ‘forgetting’ that Hillary Clinton sold 20% of the US uranium supply to that self-same Russia – and that her husband was colluding with a sitting Attorney General in a secret meeting on a US government aircraft over the permanent, deliberate destruction of more than 30,000 emails which may have proven legal grounds for indictment and prosecution – while Clinton was running for the US’s highest political office.
Why? Because the Media Party has become a fan of the Democratic ‘team’ and is willing and able to put aside all facts and reality in support of that team. Such is the fallacy of political parties and their supporters. Supporters of certain political parties have become ‘fans’ and have lost any semblance of objectivity.
The lack of accountability resultant from the ‘party’ system allows an exclusionary group of unsophisticated ‘political wannabes’ (BC Conservative Party) to proclaim that they are the ‘answer to the BC voters’ prayers’ as the only true ‘conservative’ party in BC ready to vie for office in the next provincial election. No one single individual has yet to take ownership for the multitude of failures and adolescent political gaffes that transpired only short months ago. Instead, the ‘party’ can say or do whatever it wants with seeming impunity – facts be damned. Delusional sycophants and supplicants continue to feed the myth – just as thousands of nameless, faceless worker bees feed the hive, all for the good of ‘the team’.
I am very okay with mindlessness and no personal accountability in maintaining the health and well-being of a beehive.
I am not okay with mindlessness and no accountability in the health and viability of a political system that purports to espouse the values of democracy, for the common good.
I, for one, am focused on finding individuals with values and integrity who understand and accept that their prime focus and responsibility is to the people who elect them.
Unfortunately, and to the detriment of all but the self-serving insiders, once the vast majority of elected individuals ‘jump into the pot’ of a specific political party, the heat is gradually turned up by that political party until such time as the elected individual is figuratively ‘cooked’, with personal values and integrity boiled away to leave nothing but an unsavoury stew that only appeals to the palate of the cooks and those of similar tastes.
No matter how I try to reconcile it, I find that most political parties have perverted, distorted and twisted the principles of democracy into unacceptable, self-serving facades at inevitably devastating cost to the taxpayer and the legacy of future generations of citizens.
I, for one, am all in favour of ‘draining the swamp’ as has been so eloquently postulated by President Trump.
My concern is just what ‘party pot’ each frog (or other swamp creature) may jump into – and with what ultimate consequences.
My vision of Utopia, in political terms, is filled with individuals possessing personal integrity, elected and accountable to the people who have entrusted them with public office. I have no interest in electing someone who is ready, willing and able to jump into a political party ‘pot’ that is intended to satisfy only the appetite and the specific palate of a few cooks who are not particularly interested in whether or not the remainder of the population (figuratively) is fed table scraps.
Just as an unwitting frog doesn’t realize that it is slowly boiling to death as the heat is gradually turned up, most aspiring politicians don’t recognize when they have succumbed to the political party’s mantra, compromising their own personal values and integrity.
The populist movement has the potential to start nudging our political dysfunctionality in a better direction. If the Millennials, Gen-X and ‘Generation Screwed’ truly want a future that benefits them (and future generations), it is time to start looking at some better options.
For the moment, forcing career party politicians to accept individual responsibility for their own decisions – including failures and transgressions would be a good start.
Electing ethical, accountable and independent politicians who are committed first and foremost to the voter who elected them might be the necessary first step.
I, for one, am tired of being fed the same old ‘political party’ stew (and political party table scraps).