Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Platform of Rhetoricals and Hypotheticals (But First, An Extended Leadoff)

I'll be frank with you, in full disclosure: I have no affiliation, loyalties, or particular affection towards any party. I was raised amongst left-wingers, right-wingers, party-shifters, non-voters, and one or two people who may have been anarchosyndicalists.

I have a Double Honours in History and Political Studies; I went into these fields because I found them the most entertaining. (Let's face it -- no Arts degree was going to get me gainful employment, so I may as well have gone with what made me smile most often.) And in the case of Political Studies (known as 'Political Science' in some places -- and instead of 'Poli-Sci', the name shortens out to 'Po-Stud'), I studied it on the grounds that I figured I shouldn't make future political decisions without understanding what was at stake or going on out there.

You can imagine my initial amazement (because I am naive) to learn that many students of Poli-Sci Po-Stud had made up their minds about everything waaaaay before ever taking courses on it; this would indicate that the main thrust of the discipline is the inevitable and potentially fruitless chase for a job with one party or another. In retrospect, if I hadn't already established my loyalties, I was probably wasting my time. (Okay, of course I was wasting my time, it's an Arts degree -- but humour me here!)

Other people may have gleamed from their studies what issues to tackle, which current and former public figures to demonize, which policies to implement or which Prime Ministers were completely balls-out crazy (hint: Mackenzie King) -- but one of the primary lessons I took from my studies was that politics, or at least public politics as we understand them, are aimed less and less at an audience the more that audience understands them.

The world is a different place than it used to be, after all. Most modern political figures get nowhere with the electorate by being pure policy brains, economic wizards, theory mavens; it used to be, back in the day, that we as a public readily accepted these figures as our leaders because we believed they knew better how to steer the ship than we ourselves could. Nowadays, however, ours is a culture of consumers -- and to get anywhere in politics today a candidate must act primarily as a combination of performer and product. Who do you suppose still garners greater esteem and respect from Canadians today: Preston Manning, or Belinda Stronach?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. (The Rhetoricals and Hypotheticals are for later!) What I am building to here with this preamble is that I've not yet decided who I'll vote for in this upcoming provincial election, and that -- as it stands, since the parties are very nearly indistinguishable from each other to the untrained eye anyway -- my vote will go to the party that most perfectly pushes for political power through prolonged public performance. (I am given to brief bouts of alliteration sometimes.)

In short: I know how the campaign game works, I'm here to be entertained, and I want to see blood.

We're almost a week into the campaign for the 2007 Manitoba Provincial Election, and so far it has been... well... how do I put this delicately? It has been cautious, is how I will put it. I don't mean to suggest that the output has been scattershot, poorly constructed and dull on all sides -- but it has been, so that's how it comes out.

There has been a verbal misstep or two, yes, and there have been some outright lies from all three 'major' parties (is to say, the two major parties and the incredibly minor party that somehow gets media coverage), but so far the affair has been amazingly bland and almost disquietingly civil. ("She's a prop!" "That's sexist!" "Oh! I'm sorry." "Oh, uh... okay. Thanks.")

What we know about the three leaders, after six days of campaigning:

-- Gary Doer likes soccer, Canadian football (specifically at Polo Park), pretending to care about health care, and apparently watching Breakfast Television on A-Channel MTN? oh god I feel old now CityTV.

-- Hugh McFadyen likes soccer, tax cuts (on the wrong tax financially but the sexiest tax politically), pretending to care about health care, and... Brandon?

-- And Jon Gerrard likes Lake Winnipeg, goofy car-theft deterrent ideas, pretending to care about health care, and promising anything that anyone can think of because you can do that sort of thing when you're never, ever going to be in power.

Go figure that the federal Liberals and Greens are willing to work together, but the Liberals and Greens in Manitoba (who combined still wouldn't be a recognized party by their current numbers, but baby steps here) haven't yet thought to put some deals together. Besides the immediate answer of 'ego', do either of these camps have anything to lose?

Ah, but I get ahead of myself again. Rhetoricals and Hypotheticals! These are the questions that aren't on the minds of the electorate, but should be:

Would you want any of these guys backing you up as the sweeper on your soccer team?

What would be so bloody difficult about building soccer facilities in more than one place?

Where are all of these new nurses supposed to come from? And how do prospective nurses feel knowing that their mandatory union dues will be used for patronizing television advertisements that accomplish little except to irritate hockey fans?

Which city candidate for office, trying hardest to seem 'down-to-earth', would be most likely to stage a photo-op of himself or herself drinking a Slurpee? (And would the Slurpee object to its role as a prop?)

Does the noun 'prop' inherently carry a feminine designation in English, just as certain nouns do in French?

Instead of phantom issues -- like who is or isn't a prop, or who would or wouldn't sell Manitoba Hydro -- couldn't we pay attention to tangible ideas like downtown revitalization, bike paths, aboriginal concerns across the province, or making sure that North End residents aren't dying of unnatural causes by the truckload?

Gary Doer and Vince McMahon: stunt doubles for each other, or seperated at birth?

How the stone hell has nobody taken anybody else to task yet over Spirited Energy?

Can we please get to the cheapshots and personal attacks, already, before everybody falls asleep here?

Questions to remember! If they popped up in press conferences, heads would explode!


PGP said...

Perfect! But where do you find the time??

James Howard said...

Why, there's always plenty of time to sit and think about things when you take public transit to work and back!

This time of year, of course, the temptation is always strong to blow six straight hours each night watching playoff hockey; it's a wonder anybody gets anything done at all in a Canadian spring.

Granted, blog writing isn't much of a step up from sitting and watching sports all night -- but hey, at the very least, it keeps me off the streets!