“POLITICS HAVE NO RELATION TO MORALS,” said Niccolo Machiavelli back in the 16th century and there are many of us who surely disagree. And yet the idea the politics itself has become a real-life version of House of Cards is growing in strength the more the mudslinging and misrepresentations continue.
Those undergoing Canada’s federal election season likely struggle hard to maintain their belief in a politics that matters, but it isn’t easy. In fact, across the entire Western world democracy itself is losing its moorings; we know it and we are troubled by it. So, yes, it is likely the easiest to blame our present political difficulties on politicians themselves. And it is largely true that if they wish us to believe in good politics once again they are hardly providing us reasons and examples for moving in that direction.
Look at most developed nations and it obvious that a sense of angst runs through their populations – a key expression of democracy’s troubled state. Yet at the same time most of those people say that are primarily happy with their private lives; it’s just the collective condition of their city, province, country, or territory that they are down on.
But here’s something for us to consider: what if our present difficulties have more to do with democracy itself than merely the professional politics itself? Government was once viewed as vital to our prosperity and future; now it borders on the villainous. Democracy was founded on the belief that if you didn’t like any particular government that all you had to do was enter a ballot box and toss them out. Yet increasing numbers of citizens today avoid the vote, saying that nothing will change regardless of who is elected. Reform at any time can prove difficult, but when the elected watchers of the State seem out of touch with the times themselves, believing that we can alter our course isn’t common.
In a modern world built on the principles of collaboration and innovation, how is it that we have ended up with a federal Parliament as bitter and partisan as any time on record? At a time when citizens themselves and their input are seen as crucial for the future, why is it, then, that those same citizens refuse to come out in significant enough numbers to turn their respective nations in the proper direction? These two questions are even more confounding when we realize that the majority of the people in politics, and those in the citizenry, are basically solid, intelligent, and compassionate human beings who just happen to be avoiding the tasks necessary to realign the public and the private good.
Our problems might not be merely the people, but the systems themselves. Politics has become all about stifling partisanship, while citizens often prefer to blame politics rather than using the democratic franchise to reform it. Maybe we have changed more than we care to admit. Perhaps, as citizens, we are so distracted and preoccupied that we no longer desire to be troubled with the larger, more collective, picture. The political system knows this and senses it can get away with bad behavior because we don’t care enough to demand change from it. They would prefer to buy us individually with their money than inspires us collectively with their vision.
As many have noted in recent months, we presently have a federal government that is one of the most secretive and authoritative in Canadian history and yet citizens voted them in. How is that possible in an age when inclusiveness, transparency, and empowered citizenship are supposed to be the way of the future?
If democracy itself depended on the energized relationship between elected and elector for its success and both sides no longer care for that relationship, is democracy itself not really the issue? We have no alternatives, of course, and it’s likely the Churchill’s view that democracy is still the best of all political solutions rings true for the majority of us. But what happens when a divorce seems more imminent than reconciliation? If that indeed be the case, then democracy itself, and its future, is the thing we should ultimately be worried about in this election. Our only way to bring our nation back to a place of health is to vote to stay in a collaborative relationship. Will we show up in critical enough numbers to recapture a national consensus? Will our politicians run against a system that seeks to divide and conquer? Again, it will all come down to a pencil on a piece of paper. Either way, this election is about the fate of democracy, not mere politics.