The most prominent feature of the 2015 federal election, at least in these very early days, is how so many people seem to have already made up their minds – about who they are not voting for.
Right now, it could be called the “NOT election” as in “I’m not voting for that guy!”
Of course, there are people like that in every election, who eliminate candidates one by one instead of raising anyone to the top of the heap.
But this election seems like more than that. Both nationally and locally, it seems more and more people are adamant about who they are not choosing first and foremost and truly struggling with where to go after than.
Just the other day I had a conversation with a fairly politically astute fellow who said, right out of the gate, “I just can’t vote for Justin.”
To the surprise of, I’m sure, no one, I have a plethora of friends and acquaintances who have the exact same response to Stephen Harper.
To an extent, the parties and their supporters deserve some of the blame for this phenomena: they have spent a great deal of time and effort telling us why we shouldn’t vote for their opponent and much less giving us reasons to actually vote for them.
Which may be why Thomas Mulcair and the NDP are doing so well – he is the choice people dislike the least.
It’s kind of like my friend who couldn’t vote for Justin; he asked at one point, “Have things really been so bad with Harper?”
Well, there are lots of people who would certainly argue they have been. But my point is more straightforward and less partisan, namely shouldn’t we be aiming higher than “not so bad?”
What does it say about us when we are reduced to supporting a candidate – any candidate not just one for the highest office in the land – with the enthusiastic praise of “He doesn’t suck.”
This isn’t limited to the national stage either: I have gotten similar responses regarding all three Bay of Quinte riding candidates: either “I can’t vote for ——— (insert name here)” or “Well ———— isn’t too bad.”
Honestly, I would like to find one person, aside from immediate family, who is genuinely excited about our local candidates.
And that’s not intended to be a knock on the candidates. They are good people and I don’t think any of them will make a bad MP should they get elected.
But right now the three of them aren’t generating enough heat to ignite a prairie brush fire.
Some of that is the nature of the beast. It’s summer, the national campaign has just started and the local campaigns are just getting going.
But at the end of the day those are excuses, rather than reasons. And if we want a little sizzle as well as some steak – or ideally more of both – then it is up to us to make that happen.
Part of that is making sure we ask questions – lots of questions – and insist on real answers not platitudes or party positions from candidates.
But more importantly, let’s talk more to each other about these things.
I had a conversation with a woman recently – a woman who was interested, engaged, curious and knowledgeable – who actually apologized to me for wanting to talk politics.
I find that puzzling, and a little disturbing. While I don’t think politics should dominate everyone conversation, or even most of them, I wonder how we can ever learn, assess issues and candidates, and come to intelligent decisions if we never talk about anything?
More importantly, why should candidates engage – and be engaging – if we don’t insist on it, not only through official debates but when they are knocking on doors, attending events, in fact in all walks of life.
Discussing politics and issues doesn’t have to be contentious or uncomfortable, or even particularly deep. It can be something as simple as “Do you know what each party wants to do with taxes?” Or roads. Or daycare. Whatever is at the forefront of your concerns.
And maybe the person you ask knows. Or maybe they don’t, but they know somebody who does and asks them. And suddenly we have conversations going on. And we start becoming informed.
And along the way maybe we learn a little about why we should vote for a candidate or leader or a party, rather than just hearing about why we shouldn’t vote for the other guy.
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