There is a common saying that people tend to say in the lead up to elections, “if you don’t like what the government is doing, go vote to change it.”
However, what happens to the people’s trust in the political system, when there is a sense that no new party or leader will really change things?
What happens when people become disenfranchised or disconnected from politics, and no longer have an interest in the political system?
I would argue that these very notions exist in many Western democracies in this point in time, and especially within Canada.
People in Canada aren’t going to vote “for” leaders and parties they believe in, they either feel like they don’t want to vote at all or if they do they are going to vote someone “out” rather than vote someone “in.” Essentially they are voting for the “lesser of two evils.” The idea that an average voter doesn’t think any of the party leaders are great but are voting for the one they think is “slightly better” than the other.
You constantly hear people say, “I don’t like Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau, but I am going to vote for Scheer because he is better than Trudeau,” or vice-versa.
What happened to the ideology of voting for someone you believe in? Someone, you like and actually want to lead the country and/or province? Instead, it has become ‘I don’t like either of these people, so I am going to vote for the lesser of two evils.’
I would argue the main reason is that there are average ‘party leaders,’ rather than really ‘strong’ leaders running our political parties. What I mean by this, is we have leaders from each party but don’t have a leader for the country.
People may attribute something as being a ‘good leader’ if most of the population can connect with them, someone they feel is ‘one of us.’ Not something the general public see as being an elitist, or corrupt.
People used to respect politicians and believe in them, now politicians are seen as being ‘corrupt,’ ‘unoriginal’ or frankly just plain ‘stupid.’ They aren’t any great new big ideas being presented, the same old platforms and policies keep circling around- and each party just takes a slightly different approach to the same issue.
This upcoming Alberta election has had many undecided voters even into the lead up to election day (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-provincial-election-undecided-1.5087170).
Why is this?
Because people aren’t connecting to any of the parties or leaders. There is a disconnect between most Albertans and Jason Kenney, just like there is a disconnect between most Albertans and Rachel Notley.
And none of the other party leaders (Alberta Party or Liberal Party) are visible enough to change anything, so people will now be going to the polls on Tuesday to vote for who they think is a ‘bit better’ than the other, rather than actually voting someone in, who they believe in.
So why don’t we have any leaders that Canadians are connecting with?
I would argue that because politics has become such a hostile environment, the individuals who may have considered running and would be a ‘good leader’ are not choosing not to run and taking different career paths- a career in which the media and population doesn’t unfairly criticise you for your every move, what you wear, or what you say.
Many people are not willing to sacrifice their life to be in an environment where they are constantly criticised, ridiculed, and in a place where they don’t feel they have much room to actually change very much.
I do think that young candidates and female candidates have even more challenges when running, but in general, I think that the whole world of politics has poisoned the ‘candidate pond’ and now there is not a viable space for us to bring in the good people who we can connect with. There is only room for the corrupt, elitists, hence why we keep having them as our representations and leaders.
This is not to see that all our leaders or representatives are bad, it is more to say that we are doing a pretty good job at pushing the good ones out.
As voters, we can discourage attack ads from political parties and media, and encourage a safer fairer environment for candidates to run in. A place where people can state their opinions, without fear of their reputation being smeared on social media, a place where candidates aren’t commented on their appearance, or where candidates aren’t harassed and bullied online by ‘trolls.’
We as voters can encourage change in the political environment, where hostility is no longer welcome. But things will only change if we the people force it to…