We all know the used car salesman joke, right? “You can tell he’s lying: his lips are moving.” Those of us who have experienced what passes for legal life in a courtroom or at a deposition also know that the same joke can, far too often, be attached to barristers, although in their case it is more often a combination of questions akin to “have you stopped beating your wife: answer yes or no” and a focus on the twig to the exclusion of the tree, much less the forest.
Our politicians, too, are easily tarred with this brush, since on the one hand much of the huckstering of the run up to and actual campaigns for election is filled with the silky promises of the salesperson, and much of their interactions post election are those of lawyers taking each other on. In other words, “he must be lying: his lips are moving” easily gets attached to politicians as well.
Except here some of us experience a bifurcation most of the time. All those other politicians are so obviously “lyin’, cheatin’, slimy bahstids” that their entire prattling talk track isn’t worth even paying attention to; the ones from the party we support, on the other hand, are just doing their job under trying circumstances. No? Just read your way through any of the blog aggregators organised by party affiliation…
As someone who actually chooses to read what the better writers from all camps have to say, I’ve gotten used to filtering this bifurcated stream. Every camp has people who write well, argue well, make me think. That doesn’t easily change my own inclinations — my preference for one of the parties over the others doesn’t waver in the breeze that easily — but it does give me food for thought.
I, you might say, am someone who, were I ever to be nominated and elected, would not take the whip well. Annoying, a tendency to think for oneself, but there you are. For my primary loyalties lie with my political philosophy and not with a party line at all times, and any affiliation I might hold (I have held several over the years on both the so-called ‘right’ and the so-called ‘left’) is much more a matter of “common cause” than of ideological fervour, or even “my party right or wrong”.
All of this is rumbling through my head today in large measure as a result of the noise being raised about “In-and-Out”, the RCMP raid on Conservative Party headquarters, and Sunday’s ridiculous attempt at media management by the Conservative brain trust, who managed to create a new ostensive definition in the dictionary of image-driven words for the phrase it takes 40,000 inklings to make a clue, and they’re still working on their first inkling. As Sandy at Crux-of-the-Matter noted, it’s hardly rocket science to have a viable communications strategy, and it is, after all, supposed to be a core competency found in a political organisation.
Thanks to these “one brain cell” idiots, the hills are alive with the sound of thrust and counter-thrust. Already, under all the rhetoric and opining, any chance that the average citizen can ferret out the truth of matters and form a sound, reasoned judgement about what the actions of the Conservatives might mean, and whether this means that, despite wanting to vote Conservative, one should not. (There may also be those who prize chicanery above all else who would be deterred by all the smoke and flame from finding out that “here’s where I should reward such behaviour”, but I suspect their primary allegiances will remain with the thieves and liars they know: it’s a line of work where many years of success at successful manipulation to trade favours is not easily overcome.)
Instead, one more reason not to vote has been created. Rather than worry the issue through, I suspect far too many will just say “they’re all up to it”, throw up their hands and decide politics just doesn’t matter, because “no vote I cast will change anything”.
That, I am coming to believe, is the real purpose of all of this. If more and more casual electors can be driven from the field — “casual”, in this case, meaning “not obsessed by politics between elections and thus only pay attention when asked to vote” — the electoral battles come down to the faithful core.
Canada may, for instance, be easily seen as leaning more to the “activist” side of the ledger than the “libertarian” side — our belief in the efficacy of government to “solve things” as opposed to the uncertainly of individual initiative is strong — but when we overlay the traditional party map from “left” to “right” on this it is quite possible that “right activists” could win the day in many ridings if the “left activists” just stayed home, even though far more of this country’s “activism” is expressed “left of centre” than “right of centre”. Those who want what they see as “progress” can more easily be disheartened by the sense of “nothing making a difference” than those who want to implement one or another “turning back of the clock” moves.
Yes, I am left to wonder if all the apparent stupidity on display — from being quite so obvious about the money moves, to battling and taunting Elections Canada, to Sunday’s “selective press briefing”, to anything Peter van Loan has uttered in the past forty-eight hours — isn’t all very crafty, indeed.
Gerry Nichols lamented, this week, how the Conservative Party of Canada had failed “right libertarians” like himself. I, who am an old Red Tory and thus some sort of “centre-left libertarian nation-builder”, feel precisely the same way, but for different reasons.
But both of us ought to fit comfortably into the Conservative Party’s 17 principles. Would that a little fidelity to them would trump the endless tactical manoeuvring and the fine slicing and dicing of the ridings that passes for strategy these days.
For when one doesn’t want to associate with the practised liars and thieves, and one doesn’t believe in the “left activism” of the minor parties, and one finds oneself not at home in a “right activist” Reform II Conservative Party, and one doesn’t want to just fold up and ignore the nation’s future, where does one go?
Thank goodness for blogging. Perhaps posts such as these will give comfort to others who find themselves betrayed by the practice of barrister-trained used-car salesmen.
For I never forget that the plurality vote in this country remains for none of the above.