Political Hermitage

I am an avid political junkie, and I don’t think it will surprise any friends of mine who read this blog to know it. On the other hand, to look at this blog, or indeed it’s former incarnations, a Martian would have little cause to suspect as much, since I don’t frequently comment on it. If this seems a puzzling contradiction to you, let me offer a third point which I think serves to unify the others quite nicely: I don’t want to be a shrill, hyperbolic, apologist sack of regurgitated talking points.

That last “value” (which has become, most unfortunately, in the current Canadian political discourse of all parties, a sort of empty pronoun for “policy” or “soundbite” or “sentence.” A tax cut is not a value. “Stephen Harper is the devil” is not a value either. Values inform policy, and direct it, but they are not the same thing.) makes political discussions difficult because the truth is that most people who talk about politics, even though they agree with me that that is a horrible thing to become and certainly they would never descend to that, become shrill, hyperbolic, apologist sacks of regurgitated talking points.

I would like to think I am above that, if only for the reason that I haven’t got a party allegiance to defend with shrill apologist hyperbole, nor one to steer my selection of talking points to regurgitate. I would like to think that but I know that, like people who say they would never become alcoholics, doing so is a sure sign that you haven’t thought very hard about it. Thinking that way fails to recognize that the very threat of these evils is that they are insidious – they act on your reason first so that by the time you have a problem, you are too drunk and stupid to realise you’re parrotting Stockwell Day or Karl Marx, and that your friends have all either: a) gotten drunk on the same kind of booze, and are hence nodding vigorously as beads of drunken spittle fly from their lips in their calls of support, b) gotten drunk on different booze, and are hence regurgitating a different set of talking points (the deliberate duplicity of regurgitation, in light of the alcohol/politics analogy is of course not something I have to point out to you, gentle reader) with increasing sound and fury, or c) stopped listening to you. I find none of these ends to be worth pursuing, in the long run.

So it comes to pass that I absorb a monumental amount of political news, that I form considered opinions and then reject them based on new information, that I try to drive my judgements about parties from my core set of capital-V values, and that I don’t affiliate myself with a political party. It may terrify many of you to your very core that I have been told on numerous occasions that I should run for office, but if it does, find solace in the fact that I have always rejected such suggestions with the same argument: I cannot run for office, because I cannot find a party to run under. I think even my friends would not necessarily vote for the party of Johnath.

All hope is not lost, you understand. There are articles like this one, from the Globe and Mail which, while they do come to a party-specific conclusion, do so in a fairly thoughtful way. I don’t object to coming to a party specific conclusion, by the way; not in the least. Someone has to actually sign things after all, we do need to pick one of these shmucks, and it’s excellent that the author wasn’t afraid to do that: Objectivity does not imply that all the horses finish equal, just that they start that way. The article came to me by way of beltzner, who makes no bones about having a bias coming into this thing – that’s fine, every political party has thousands of people with a “bias coming into this thing.” The thing is, and the reason I will talk with Mike about politics, is that I think reasoned argument and policy examination could change his mind. I’m not particularly motivated to do so, but I believe the possibility exists, and that’s something. He’s not the only of my friends & family to be in that bucket, but by no stretch are all of them. I have said to Amy before that if Dalton McGuinty or Paul Martin turned out to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, I can still name a lot of Christians that would vote conservative, for instance. Likewise if it was revealed that Jack Layton and Paul Martin belonged to the Secret Royal Order of Kitten Eaters, I know a lot of my friends would still cite threats to the charter and refuse to vote for the conservatives.

So far I haven’t talked much about where I actually stand on any of this, old habits die hard I guess, but since the blogosphere is mostly navel-gazing anyhow, it couldn’t hurt to snapshot my current thinking process, with disclaimers about processes-in-motion and non-finality now both expressed and implied:

  • Value: Democracy. Democracy flourishes when politicians are kept to heel by the reminder that they serve at the pleasure of the public. It suffers when any government is around too long.
  • Value: Equality. Not for the people the bible likes, but for damn hell ass everyone. The fact that we’re even still talking about same sex marriage reduces my respect for the Canadian electorate. The fact that we’re talking about those damned immigrants equally so.
  • Value: Fiscal Prudence. Notwithstanding the fact that I think Ralph Klein and I agree on almost precisely nothing, I was extremely proud of Alberta the day they, as he put it, “Burned their mortgage papers.” I know he did it by cutting babies open and selling their organs to the black market packed in leaking oil tankers full of food he stole from homeless people after putting them in prison with the sodomites and the turbans, while drunk on mouthwash and high on cough medicine — I am prepared to be pragmatic here and say that no matter what you think of his means, or his character, or his vast divergence from the rest of Canada, being debt free is an enormous asset for Alberta, and if they all become socialists tomorrow, they will be in a much better situation to enact meaningful social spending as a result. More relevantly in the national sphere, I cannot vote for a party that doesn’t put balanced budgets on the top of its fiscal priorities (thankfully they all claim to) and debt repayment as well (and here they do not all claim to.)
  • Others that I will look back tomorrow and be shocked I didn’t include.

I believe that means I vote for the greens, but only through process of elimination, which is a hell of a thing to do, and anyhow a vote there would be mostly about making a statement, not making a government. Really what I need to do is decide which of my values I’m willing to underweight, because I’m pretty sure each bullet there serves to eliminate at least one of the major three parties, unless their policies have changed. I invite shrill and hyperbolic apologist regurgitations of talking points on how party X is really in line with all of these.

I think I speak for most Canadians when I say that really, (and it’s been so oft-repeated that I think it’s becoming cliché) I wish Duceppe weren’t a bloody separatist.


  1. Well, having already voted, even the most well-reasoned arguments would be hard pressed to have a result in my final decision. I do enjoy the discourse, though, and am pleased to leave the impression that I am not of an immutable mind on these things.

    While I wear my biases of opinon openly, I do want to point out that I did actually read through all of the platforms (admittedly focusing more on the issues that I really cared about) and made my choice based on which of the platforms best fit my own views and ideas. I also made my choice based on who I estimated could actually fulfill most of those promises: ideas are great, but implementable ideas are better.

    I tried to keep my sense of annoyance at the current government out of my mind, although I admit that it did inform me to a degree when considering which of the platforms was most likely to end up matching the resulting governing agenda. I also weighted the fact that one party is an entirely new federal player, with no leadership experience in that office.

    Finally, I asked myself a single question: given all this information, who do I think can best lead our nation for the next eigtheen months to five years? Then I closed my eyes, thought of Canada, marked the ballot and walked away.

  2. Very nice post, and well put on the “Values” list. As much as we may have differed in the past, it seems that you and I have come to pretty similar political viewpoints at present. As someone who has cast ballots for four different parties at one point or another, I do my best to evaluate all the party platforms each election.

    Another Value that I would put on my list would be what I will call Informed Realism, but could also be called “being neither deceptive nor ignorant”. It drives me nuts when a politician says “we want A to happen, so we will do B to make it happen”, when all the information I have says B will NOT, in fact, lead to A. A prime example would be: “we want to reduce teen pregnancy, so we’ll only teach abstinence in sex-ed”. I’m never sure whether they’re doing it to be deceptive or because even policy departments are well supplied with idiots.

    When I’m in a position where I need to weight my values, I tend to focus on long-term consequences. When Ontario’s credit rating started to drop, this meant voting against Bob Rae. A bad credit rating would mean higher interest rates on debt, meaning more deficit, starting an evil spiral of nastiness. My current long-term concerns are debt reduction and the health system. Debt reduction has the appeal of being 100% guaranteed to pay off in the long run, which few investments can claim. As far as health care goes, as resources get tight, the system seems to focus on emergency care and drug treatments, at the expense of preventative care and healthy living. These emergencey treatments are terribly inefficient in the long run, and focusing on them will drive our health care costs even higher. The only things that can be cut will be preventative care items, creating another evil spiral of nastiness. Sadly, this hasn’t been a major issue this election.