The Politics Of Fear
Have you ever noticed how there's nothing like an election campaign to bring out the absolute worst in people? Politicians are prostitutes for power most of the time, but that's nothing compared to what they're like when seeking office. It's bad enough if they've never been in power, but give them a taste, and they're worse then a junkie desperate for a fix.
Look at how wild eyed they start getting near the end of a close campaign; they're going to promise just about anything and everything to get those few votes they think might put them over the edge. I know our system is different up here in Canada from those elsewhere in the world, we still run on the old constitutional monarchy, federalist system, but politicians are the same the world over no matter what the circumstances.
In fact, it's safe to say that one thing every society on the face of the earth has in common is a power hungry politician. It doesn't matter if it's a military dictatorship or some sort of democracy, those in power will do anything they can to stay in power. Believe me if the guys in Ottawa, or anywhere else in the world where they have elections, could figure out how they could use the army to avoid an election they would.
Seriously though, look at politicians' behaviour during elections; what are their two favourite tactics? They either smear their opponent with so much dirt that he or she looks like they have been wallowing with pigs all their lives, or they play on the voters worst fears. The quickest way to cast aspersions on your opponent is to tell the voters that he or she will make their worst fears come true, and that only you can keep them safe.
It doesn't matter whether the danger even exists, in fact it's best if you have to warn them of the dangers that will beset them if your opponent wins. If you hadn't told them they would have never known your opponent was prepared to let child molesters teach their children – something that you would never let happen when you win with a majority.
For those of you who think that's a little over the top, let me remind you of what George Bush senior did in the 1988 election to Michael Dukakis. One prisoner who was paroled when Dukakis was Governor of Massachusettes re-offended. Of course, it didn't hurt that the man in question was black, because that played on all the worst prejudices and fears. All of sudden if Dukakis were elected President nobody's lily-white daughter would be safe from mean black rapists prowling the streets.
Lest anyone think I'm picking only on American politicians, Canadians are no better. Hell for all our reputation as being polite, political campaigning up here is just as ugly and nasty as anywhere else. The province I live in, Ontario, is in the midst of an election to see who will rule for the next four years. Although there are four parties officially in the running, Liberal, Progressive Conservative (PC), New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Greens, it's ultimately a fight between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives for top prize. (Quick note: The Prime Minister of Canada's Conservative Party of Canada is so universally hated in Ontario that Ontario conservatives chose to retain the party's old name to put as much distance as possible between themselves and his social policies; hence Progressive Conservative).
The PC party has been out of power for almost a decade now and they're really feeling antsy and mean. So they've decided to make the whole election about leadership and who is best suited to run the province – their guy who's never held public office, or the Liberal whose been premier for almost ten years. Since logic won't win that battle, they've gone for scare tactics instead.
You would think that telling everyone to circle the wagons because renegade Redskins are on the war path would be a little dated, but that's their tactic and it might just play well enough in some parts of the province to win them extra seats. About one hundred-and fifty years ago, the province of Ontario leased treaty lands from Mohawks across Southwest and South-East Ontario. Some how or other it slipped their minds that they didn't own the land and have had a grand old time selling it off to developers to build everything from gravel pits to housing developments.
In the past two years, this has blown up in their faces with Mohawks occupying a building site just outside of Caledonia Ontario in Western Ontario, and blockading the highways in Eastern Ontario in protest over the sale of treaty lands to developers. Since treaty disputes fall under the auspices of the federal government to resolve, there's not much the province can do except to try and make sure the situation doesn't get too ugly.
The people who have paid for homes and are still waiting for them to be built aren't thrilled and neither are the developers who can't finish the homes. They need someone to blame for their troubles, and the PCs are more than willing to point the finger at the Liberals for them.
By saying things like real leadership would uphold the law, they are letting the people know they wouldn't let a bunch of pesky Redskins hold up a housing development. Then they point to the blockades happening in the other parts of the province and say, look what happens if you give these people an inch, they'll take a mile. Who know what will happen if you don't elect us, they could come after your house tomorrow!
I find it amazing that with all the real issues that face most western societies these days, like jobs and housing, that modern political parties can still play the race card and fear of "others" so successfully. But then again nobody has ever accused a politician of having a conscience when it comes to trying to win power.
With the primaries getting into full swing in the United States, and Canada probably heading for a federal election within the next year, it will be interesting to see how much low people are going to be willing to stoop to gain power. We'll probably soon hear all about how much Hilary Clinton hates American soldiers, or how much Prime Minister Steven Harper hates everybody whose not white Anglo-Saxon, as everybody tries to find a way of making us fear their opponents.
Wouldn't it be nice if somebody tried to convince us of why we should like and trust them, instead of why we should fear and distrust their opponents? Maybe that's why so few people vote anymore – politicians don't even like themselves enough to give people reasons to vote for them.