Why can’t we be friends? How partisan bickering erodes the democratic process

OPINION

Editor’s note: This is the first of occasional articles The Current will publish relating to the 2019 federal election. 

It is election year and Canada is about to get ugly.

Our traditionally polite dispositions will soon be replaced by venom, pointed at those we have deemed our enemies — our fellow countrymen. Our makeshift gladiator arena extends from the coffee shop to social media, our weaponry an endless diatribe of half-truths and blind insults towards those we disagree with politically.

Let’s begin with the loudest among us — those who really, really dislike Justin Trudeau.

Hey, Canada’s far right: We get it; you don’t like him. A great many of you probably even hate him, which is already a red flag for irrational discourse, by the way. Your go-to weapon of propaganda is the internet meme and rarely do you miss the chance to spread blatant disinformation. I really hate to be the one to break this to you, but Trudeau is not destroying Canada. You just disagree with his policies. Granted, you mostly yell your hyperbole towards a group of emotional alarmists on the other side.

As for you alarmists, you pearl clutchers on the far left, you have become a caricature of yourself, pretending to be all-inclusive as you demonstrate how to exclude, how to ostracize. You meander between activism and faux altruism, carving a path towards a grossly exaggerated version of society’s flaws. Your numbers are small but often your most draconian views are parroted by mainstream media, turning ideological opposites into helpless, pathological contrarians.

As for the rest of you, this is probably all your fault.

The sensible middle in today’s political climate is both necessary and woefully underpopulated. You might be more reasonable than the far left or far right, but you are also lazy as an old dog on Sunday. In fairness, it can be difficult to find the passion required to spotlight and actively engage in politics without a dogmatic belief system. That’s the rub. Moreover, you have lives. Politics isn’t something you have prioritized as a value, yet most of what you consider important would be better served with you actively engaging in politics. The issues most of you care about — taxes, the environment, gun rights, race relations, employment, societal safety nets, free speech and universal health care — can only be positively impacted if you stay informed and even engage in the political process to foster actual change.

Anything less is apathy. These are the times we live in.

When Stephen Harper was in power, the left accused him of having a dark, hidden agenda. They said he would criss-cross the nation with oil pipelines and that he would decimate our forests and lakes. Nearly all of those predictions did not materialize, even after twelve years in office.

Justin Trudeau, to contrast, is currently being accused of paying refugees more than veterans, jeopardizing our sovereignty via UN non-binding pledges and kow-towing to Islamic extremists. Those claims are also largely exaggerated. The current SNC-Lavalin scandal will certainly have an impact on the election, but calls for his resignation are certainly premature.

But the memes are coming. The lecturing tone is coming. Dog whistle racism is coming. Arbitrary accusations of dog whistle racism are coming. Alarmism and virtue signalling and pearl clutching and disinformation and outright lies and buried scandals and hyper public relations strategies are coming for all of us.

The only viable strategy for fighting this onslaught of anti-civics is to connect both sides with each other. To turn these enemies into unlikely allies we need a full-on assault on irrational propagandists, whether left or right, and a commitment to becoming unwavering servants in the pursuit of rational, non partisan politics.

Only 3 percent of Canadians are card-carrying members of an actual political party. This leaves 97 percent of us to wade through the noise. Party leaders and war room strategists are plotting ways to help convince their rabid followers to distribute and disseminate the fear mongering messaging, and our job is to call out these operations with veracity and guile, because we can’t go on demonizing our fellow Canadians due to political differences. Civil disagreements are not just a moral choice we need to make in order to better ourselves as people, but by injecting rational debate we can make a legitimate case for being patriots too.

james-di-fioreAbout the authorJames Di Fiore is a freelance journalist focusing on politics and media. He and his wife are raising their young family in Killaloe. The opinions expressed in this article are his own.

 

 

 

Featured photo: pexels.com

2 Comments

  1. Gregory Lang

    Well written; thank you.
    Partisan politics is by design a divide and conquer model. Instead of communities selecting one of the many candidates who are actually representative of that community we see instead candidates running under Party Brand or on the Leaders coattails. Remember Vegas Girl in Quebec – the NDP candidate who won without even being there. If not for the election finance and vote subsidy rules she likely would not have been running at all. And then on the other side there are candidates whom everyone likes and respects but they lose re-election because the branding and marketing made it so, and the community loses a voice that speaks for them, replacing it with a voice that speaks for Party and Leader…who does that serve; not the community.

    Respectful dialogue about different solutions, instead of fear mongering about different problems, was how it used to be and how the democratic system is supposed to work. Our elected representatives will change their behaviour when we change ours, because our elected representative will once again be one of us, one of our neighbours, and not some Party-based lap dog owned by the Leader.

  2. Living in a small community, one is deeply aware that when an extreme view is expressed, it can close down the conversation. No need for that. We are all different. There are always 10 or more sides to issues and we can’t possibly know them all intimately. We can find common ground. Most of us want food, water and a place to be safe. Most would like to see children educated, grow up healthy and secure. Past that, we have variances about sex, politics and what have you. Sometimes we need to agree to disagree. What we should never feel is driven to silence. We should never feel isolated by our opinions. Expressing one’s self can be risky but taking care to use good language can mitigate that risk. We can do this even in a small community, because we need each other.

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