You’re probably wondering why I’ve linked to a Chris Christie ad. Well, it’s because of this one key phrase buried in the middle of the ad:
“Compromise isn’t a dirty word.”
See what he did there?
For far too long now, the old adage of “you’re either with us or against us” has laid waste to our discussion of policy issues. Complex issues have been reduced to black or white, yes or no, with an inability to find common ground.
What makes the problem worse these days is that political parties intuit votes against certain motions or legislation as indicative of the opposing party’s views when the true story is much more complicated.
Take this past fall’s that passed. It was 425 pages long and affected 64 different pieces of legislation. 64. So if you were against the changes made in only one piece of legislation, you’d be forced to vote against the bill in its entirety. That makes it difficult to defend yourself, doesn’t it, as your voting record only shows a ‘nay’ vote.
Conservatives love exploiting this tactic in Question Period. How many times over the past weeks has the Opposition brought up changes to Canada’s student summer jobs program with the Government responding that the Opposition should simply vote with the Government and support Canadian young people?
Far too many times to count.
It’s not that the NDP opposes jobs for Canadian young people (I assume). What the NDP opposes is how the Government is going about creating those jobs. But that’s far too complicated an argument for a 6 second sound bite, so it’s easiest to just say that the NDP is obviously against supporting Canadian young people because they voted against the Government’s initiatives in this area. There’s no mention of the larger policy debate at play.
What infuriates me more, though, is when political parties exploit these situations to try and paint the Opposition as somewhat less patriotic than other Canadians, as if not supporting the government was tantamount to treason. Remember Taliban Jack? NDP Leader Jack Layton was pilloried for suggesting that ending the war in Afghanistan might require negotiating with the Taliban. Many, including journalists, thought Layton was not only off-his-rocker-crazy, but that this line of thought obviously meant he wasn’t patriotic and didn’t support Canadian troops. The same thing occurred in the US during the war in Iraq; those who were against the war were branded unpatriotic.
It’d be nice to have a grown-up conversation about these issues instead of reverting to a political version of ‘Did not!’ ‘Did too!’ that kids play in elementary school. But that won’t happen unless we demand more of our politicians.
Unfortunately, we’re all more enamoured with the NHL playoffs and ‘American Idol’ than we are with politics. But based on the above, I really can’t blame you.