Every nation gets the government it deserves.
Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre
On November 8, Americans head to the polls. I watch and wait as a concerned citizen of America’s neighbour to the north. Regardless of who wins, the outcome will be momentous. First, a woman is running for President who has a chance of winning. Second, a Republican outsider who wasn’t supposed to get this far, also has a chance of winning. Each brings their respective strengths and limitations to the leadership bid in a campaign that has been divisive and fractious. Hopefully, the fear mongering and vitriol that has characterized this election will stop.
Everyone, including Canadians, should be concerned about this election. How did we come to this point? Every time I think I have heard it all, I end up being surprised again- and not in a good way. Reasoned and informed debate on public policy issues (e.g. climate change, trade, health care) has been overshadowed by pithy attacks and poisoning rhetoric. Surely everyone has had enough. I know I have.
Throughout, the fact checkers are working overtime. Toronto Star journalist, Daniel Dale (article: October 30, 2016), is keeping a tally of every false statement made by Donald Trump, with the fewest counted in any given day as four and the most at 37- logged at the final Presidential debate. Dale suggests Trump’s “habitual erring…(is a) serial carelessness with facts”. To me, this implies either a disregard for accuracy and truth or chronic sloppiness. It also contributes to an uninformed electorate. We should pay attention to this.
I suspect uninformed voters are to be found in every country- including Canada. Candidates, who fall down the slippery slope of half-truths and deliberate deceptions, count on this. A well informed electorate keeps candidates accountable by preventing or limiting the slide into personality bashing and distorted claims.
I include myself when I ask how many of us can truly get beyond partisanship and seek to understand the issues? How many of us can put aside our own self-interests to consider the public good- even if it does not directly benefit us? How many of us will cease to offer excuses when our favoured candidate crosses a line? Surely this is our responsibility as citizens.
In the United States, there is a large group of disenchanted voters who have felt unheard for some time and they are angry. Their seeds of discontent are nurtured by the politics of blame and difference. In Toronto, many witnessed a similar scenario during Rob Ford’s tenure as Mayor, a master of the nasty sound bite. The bizarre narrative that is unfolding in the US is a harbinger of what could happen elsewhere including Canada, when fear and self-interests overtake the common good. It is akin to Theatre of the Absurd.
The US election affects us all. And so as citizens of our great neighbour to the south prepare to vote, may they get the government they deserve and elect leaders who govern honourably in the best interests of the people for the people. I wish them the best!