I have been pretty silent on this blog about the ongoing election, as I have directed my (almost daily) rants over to my Facebook Page. However there is one topic I figured was non-partisan enough and apropos for this blog, so I am copying it over here almost verbatim.
This Candidate-shaming thing has gotten completely out of hand.
The idea that people vying to be a Member of Parliament should not have ever expressed an opinion or uttered a word that would raise your grandmother’s eyebrow is a grotesque shift of what it means to be a community representative or a member of the “House of Commons”. Worse, it threatens the nature of our democracy and the quality of our governance.
It is hard to keep count, but there have been at least a dozen candidates from all three major parties turfed aside this election based on something they said last year – or last decade. Some may have said truly offensive things that speak to fundamental character, some may just have acknowledged the existence of sex, and used the language of his peers in talking about it. The problem in the election cycle is that we are rarely provided any context whatsoever – we are just provided a few salacious quotes from some social media stream. Soon enough, someone announces “the former Candidate’s views do not represent the Party” and the Candidate is sent down the memory hole.
There are many things wrong with this. I will try (and fail) to be concise. Beware: there may be a career-limiting four-letter word or two below.
He without sin: Ever said anything you regret? Ever had a strongly held opinion and expressed it? Ever just thrown a weakly held opinion out there to see what sticks, and after feedback, consideration, or learning, changed that opinion based on better information? Ever used sarcasm or humour to diffuse a delicate situation? Ever challenged a popular notion? If not, then your social media history and public record is probably safe from scrutiny. However, you are equally unsuited to be in a decision-making position in any organization, never mind representative government. If you have never done any of those things, you likely lack intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself or others, and an empathy for ideas.
Selection towards older, duller people: If you have no social media history, you are likely over 35, and as much as I appreciate and value your experience and knowledge, we also need some young, fresh ideas in politics. If you have no record of challenging norms, you are probably not a very interesting person, and don’t bring anything to the table with which it is not already overflowing. Regression to the mean is a bad thing for leaders and governments.
It hurts our understanding of candidates: We currently have a raft of candidates, mostly from one party, and including local candidates here in New West, who have practically no media (traditional or social) profile. We have no idea who they are except for their scripted Bio pages. Their entire history and public record has apparently been scrubbed clean, for fear of missing one 4-letter word. It is like they popped into existence at the nomination meeting, and since then have only forwarded Tweets from Head Office. With few of them showing up for public events (all to avoid the gaffe, of course), most of us have no practical opportunity to know who these people are. I don’t mean to shock you here, but I guarantee they all have flaws, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t good people trying to serve their community. It hurts local representation when we try to shame them for a cheap news story.
It is a barrier to participation: Who wants to put themselves up for this scrutiny? Why would any person with the talent and energy to do good work for their community risk being embarrassed nationally because of an essay they wrote in their second year comparative religion class, or because they once wrote a positive review of a Biggie album that referred to “the gang lifestyle”? Why would you even want to work on a campaign or be a vocal supporter when there is a risk of some faux-outrage tarnish rubbing off on good people?
It is meaningless: There are three hundred and thirty-eight seats; more than a thousand candidates. We can spend our time digging through them all to try to find a time a local no-hope candidate said “blow job” on a rap lyrics website. But we should ask if that is really deserving of column inches when the last two elections resulted in people from the winning party going to jail for cheating, when for the second time during this election members of the Prime Minister’s Office are being named in sworn testimony during criminal proceedings, when we have no action on climate change, when we have more than a thousand murdered and missing women, when salmon stocks are collapsing and refugees are flooding Europe and our leaders are offering three very different visions of Canada…
There is an election going on, people! The polls are too close to call! Get your damn head in the game!