One of the clear signs of the demise of modern democracy is the penchant for politicians to put partisanship over the constituencies they supposedly represent. But there is another indicator, perhaps even more ominous, and it involves citizens themselves. Politics has become so dysfunctional for so long that citizens have taken to blaming the State for their ills when in fact it has been political parties themselves that have inextricably hollowing the State out of its meaningfulness.
Politics is always with us but by the very confines put upon it by democratic laws remains transient in nature. The State, on the other hand, represents the accrued refinements and advances made over decades, and these advantages bring stability not only to the system, but to average citizens as well, rich or poor. In such a setting, political parties could tinker with the workings of the civil State, but that was pretty much the extent of it.
Modern political parties have placed the pursuit of power over the steady ability of the State to enact and provide services – in the process making it look more like a block of Swiss cheese than an institution of substance. Parties go to ever-greater lengths to acquire and maintain power, even if that means undercutting advances that were years in the development.
Thus, following decades of advances in scientific research, we are witnessing ideological tendencies within parties pulling back on investments that once presented a bright hope in areas of medical and scientific advancements. Decades of investment went into medical systems that now stand closer to a lack of resources than any time in recent memory. Support programs had been put in place for people in need of social services or post-secondary education, but these are now suffering from government’s failing to pay attention to detail. Financial regulations put in place to minimize the swings of repeated recessions are now actually feeding the very greed that induces maniacal tendencies that consistently erode the holdings of the middle class. Even political reforms, such as the oversight granted to groups like Elections Canada to confirm the political process, no longer seem sufficient to halt troubling developments like the Sponsorship Scandal, the In-and-Out debacle, or the use of robo-calling from the very government that came to power promising to clean up politics.
Democracy begins its decline in that moment when a political party, in order to keep the levers of power, turns its sights on the historic legitimacy and authority of the State instead of on those great challenges that keep citizens from acquiring their full potential. Voters only matter as a means to power, not as true owners of a nation’s democratic spirit. Another way to keep the reigns of government is to turn citizen on citizen, created anger, confusion, subterfuge – all in the name of guarding democracy. This is why Canada is increasingly becoming a nation of angry people – something not theirs by disposition but by the decline of their hopes. It’s what America’s Founding Father, Samuel Adams, worried about at the dawning of his new nation: “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”
We are rapidly becoming people with a brain fever, and in our confusion we fire our heaviest guns against the very State that was refined over decades with the purpose of protecting our gains instead of at those who took our trust and turned it into a political empire. There are good people in Parliament at this very moment that fight a heroic battle to return government to the confines in which it must function but who are continually undone by others willing to demean the State to win the political day.
Politics exists as the chosen vehicle of the people to protect their franchise and guarantee a better world for their children. The guarantor of such privileges is the State, not the political party. Our veterans didn’t fight for a party but a country. Our ancestors didn’t design regional accommodations in order to benefit one party over another. It was all done for the nation and for its people. In all things democratic, it was the State in Canada that was to house our collective spirit, not the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, or whomever. It was what Thomas Jefferson, a compatriot of Adams, pointed out perfectly: “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind them down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Our BNA Act, repatriated Constitution, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and formal regional accommodations now lie on the refuse heap of political design – casualties of a politics run amok.
We live in a darker world. Our enemies are more complex and the simple illumination of our ideals now appears farther away than ever. These are the days of the Dark Knight and the Avengers – superheroes whose very intervention is necessitated by our delusion that we can’t undertake such challenges ourselves. The most common manner in which a rogue political party seeks to capture power is by the deconstruction of the State. And the most common way Canadians give up their historical right to power is by believing they don’t have any. It is time we stopped looking for the “one” to save us and begin praying for the “many” to return the State to its place of dominance over all political intrusions and designs. As Canadians, we were never born to accept that to which we presently accede. We are smarter than this.