Monday, June 4, 2018

CONFESSIONS OF A RECOVERING POLITICAL OBSERVER


THE WONDER IS PEOPLE STILL VOTE

After a lifetime of political immersion, I ignored most of this provincial election.
I'll vote Tory because the incompetent Liberals bordered on fraud and the New Democrats want to give away even more of my money to the lazy, the unions, and every special interest group that has even a vague leftwing cachet.
 Naturally the teachers and civil servants want the Tories to lose.
I have covered politics since I was thrown out of my first council meeting in Whitehorse as editor of the onlyYukon newspaper. Then I had my vote thrown out in my first election when the territory court decided there had been too much fraud and voided the federal election.
My introduction to politics and journalism.
 My first taste of international media came via the same election when my story in Time magazine about the strange election in the land of the midnight sun appeared with seven errors not of my making.
 You would have thought I was a political reporter for the Star.
Since then it has been too many decades of covering elections, turning down invitations from three parties to be a candidate myself, and thousands of columns and editorials on politics.
Once upon a time, I thought the greatest thing in the world would be to represent voters, whether as a trustee, councillor, mayor, MPP or MP. My proudest family boast was that my father had been chairman of the Toronto school board. Now who knows who that is, and who cares?
Over the years, most politicians seemed to fail us. So when the parties came calling, I said no, even when victory was practically guaranteed.
That got easier every year as elected representatives, which I thought was honourable work, slid down the slope of public opinion past even journalists.
I was at three recent gatherings which once would have been a hotbed of political debate - several hours of meetings of the CNE board, a Ryerson University reunion with three fellow grads of the class of '58, and a family party celebrating the 80th birthday of my cousin Paul Plewes.
I was surrounded on these occasions with avid critics and current and former political partisans who have been mayors, deputy mayors, councillors, senior party officials, MPPs, reporters and failed candidates.
In the day, there would have been fire in the air, along with cutting insults, volleys of facts and ambushes of insider data.
Not now. I am sad to report that for too many, and it was illustrated at these occasions, the battlefield is silent, littered with broken promises and pools of indifference and contempt. The voter hates the choices.
One reason is the fatigue over being bribed with our own money, and excesses being justified with lies and cheating.
Another cause is the 24-hour news cycle and the desperate search for news by skeleton staffs so what passes for political coverage is used to fill the yawning expanses and is often boring and shallow.
Then there is the poor quality of the candidates. It matches the reporting.
A third cause is social media and a general contemp by too many for facts and their acceptance instead of lies and hokum dreamed up propagandists and egotists who couldn't report what was happening in a flea circus.
It's difficult to be a good reporter. It's even more difficult to be a good columnist. Yet we are surrounded by fools who think they can play journalist without ever leaving their couch.
So the U.S. now is ruled by a corrupt president who has lied and cheated his entire life. And in Canada we have a minor drama teacher who inherited money and a family reputation.
In Ontario, the only choice is so flawed, it's enough to bring one to tears. The Ford family is a caricature sketched by a drunk -  a boring father and awful mother produced one bumbling clown who became mayor and another smarter son, both of whom won simply because they preached a populist message that conventional politicians waste money and are lazy jerks.
They promised change, the most seductive of all political messages, because so many hate how we have been  governed. So they go for a Trump and a Trudeau despite their huge flaws of personality and inexperience,  and Ford is a real possibility despite being a lurching rookie.
Thank heavens there are good Conservatives who can prop Ford up, including Christine Flaherty who should have won as leader. Give me this lawyer who raised triplets and was a good cabinet minister instead of this strange premier and a union flunky who may have been a good steward.
Since we have to have an election because that is the way democracy works despite this contempt for what it is producing, let's go with some women and men who promise us real change instead of old ways to give money to all the civil servants and teachers and bureaucrats and consultants and ad flunkies and....

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