On Elections and Politicians: Why Are We Expected to Settle for Less?

I don’t like his “killing” policy, but damn his tax cuts are tempting.

The USA is preparing for another gong show AKA election this year. In 2016, they had a tough choice between a scandal hiding, bought and sold Democrat versus a shitty businessman/reality TV doofus with zero political experience and busy hands. That doofus won because the DNC is incompetent and spent more time talking down to his supporters instead of trying to solve anything for average Americans. I mean there were other reasons including, but not limited to, the US electoral system being flawed, xenophobic propaganda, and Putin’s tender kisses on Trump’s forehead at bedtime. That was way back in 2016 though so surely history won’t repeat itself. In 2020, that same inept doofus is back with a flawed electoral system, xenophobic propaganda, and threats of foreign support. The DNC has a secret weapon thankfully and it’s uh *squints at notes* a senile, old white sex offender who keeps talking down to voters and making racist statements…oh no…oh no no no. Trump versus Biden. Pick your poison, America. Anyway, elections suck is what I’m trying to get at here. They are god awful whether you’re in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Afghanistan, or some municipal election in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere. You’re still going to have to elect someone who has political aspirations and that’s already a big red flag in my opinion. Why do we settle for mediocre at best and aspiring fascist at worst? A choice between a greater evil and a lesser one isn’t something free citizens should be forced to make every election. We need to demand better from our representatives or swiftly cast them aside and find something more desirable. Settle in and let’s talk elections and politicians.

Now I ain’t saying that Canada is doing that much better than our neighbours down south. We re-elected Justin Trudeau in 2019 even after he couldn’t recall how many times he’s done blackface, didn’t keep most of his campaign promises, and was also embroiled in a corruption scandal at the time. We have several parties, but it always tends to come down to Liberal versus Conservative so his main opponent was Andrew Scheer. Scheer has a personality best described as your high school algebra teacher who rubbed your shoulders and occasionally whispered homophobic slogans in your ear at lunch. He was openly supported by Rebel Media (like a Canadian Fox News, but with no budget or Hannity’s coiffed hairpiece) and Hamish Marshall, a former director for Rebel Media, was hired to run Scheer’s election campaign. Andy was also a shill for the energy sector and undermined Indigenous rights at every opportunity in order to argue for pipelines and the tar sands. That man was our number 2 choice and he won the popular vote somehow. You also had Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party) who had a positive platform but focused way too much on the failures of the Liberals and Conservatives. Elizabeth May of the Green Party offered basically the same as the NDP, but was more wishy-washy on key issues like abortion. Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois talked about Quebec and then about Quebec. Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada just spat on immigrants for the duration the election cycle. That’s one solid lineup of potential leaders. We had a mix that stretched between right-wing fear mongering and limp dick “real Canadian values” pandering. We picked Trudy again because corruption, no reconciliation, broken campaign promises, and blackface are easy to forget when you’re high as balls from legalized marijuana.

Let’s start with a simple question. What is a politician? What’s their point in our society beyond just existing above us on the food chain? A politician is a person we elect (allegedly) to serve the collective good. Politicians are there to make laws, look pretty, maintain social order, and save us from eating each other in a violent, unregulated orgy of bestial aggression (at least that’s what we’re pitched). In theory, a democratic society is one where everyone has a voice and are considered equal under the law thus our representatives are supposed to uphold that gold standard of civil service. However, those in power are fallible creatures and the voices that reach their ears are rarely ours, but rather they hear the loudest folks or those with pockets fit to burst. Don’t you think we’d have better schools, health care, food, human rights, and housing by now if the majority of politicians were actually in it for our benefit and hearing us out fairly? Most likely. I’d love to think that some politicians are more righteous and not just in it for a shiny desk and fancy title, but they’re one well-behaved monkey in a shit-tossing circus. They’ll care sure, but what good can they do when the political system itself is stacked against the common worker? Lip service, as sincere as it might be, is still just that.

It’s about time we addressed the elephant in the room. How can I be an anarchist who hates governance and yet still voted last year? I’ll start my explanation with a story. In 2019, I attended a meeting for SNIWWOC (Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour) where one of the speakers felt like she wasn’t properly represented in politics. Each of the candidates in her riding for 2019 were older white men who spouted vague ideas about supporting Indigenous communities while not really understanding the underlying issues. One of them was all about “bringing education to reserves” and that was his whole platform for Indigenous issues. I brought up this story because it provides a common and unfortunate reason for why some people choose not to vote and why I initially wanted to. Whether it’s a lack of representation or the fear of not making a difference, voting can be a hurdle that some people simply won’t overcome. Minority groups and other persecuted peoples can view the election process as voting for more of the same bullshit which was echoed in that SNIWWOC meeting. Those with separate political ideals (me included) can also see the process as pointless considering the mediocre track record of governments in this country in regards to human rights, environmental protection, reconciliation, and both open and underhanded corruption. Despite my biases, I chose to vote because I firmly believe that we as allies should use our privilege in this system to benefit the disenfranchised. Consider it a minor form of harm reduction. I also chose to vote because I’m eager to build a stable foundation for revolutionary change.

Photo Source: Daily Hive, 2019

Why did I vote for Singh and the NDP in 2019? As stated in the previous paragraph, I believe we require a foundation to build upon and the NDP would have served us well in that regard. Jagmeet is a politician and one bound by the same constraints that keep any leaders from bringing true equality and freedom to Canadians, but the NDP platform at least loosened the leash a bit. They wanted to expand our medical coverage, increase mental health resources, tackle homelessness, offer affordable childcare, and introduce a much needed wealth tax on those earning $20 million or more per year. They offered policies that were ultimately aimed at helping working class folks which is more than could be said for the corporate stroking policies pushed by the Liberals and Conservatives. It’s not perfect, but leftists could at least work with it while we develop more grassroots movements and gradually start shifting people away from the established order. Am I saying successful revolutions can’t be quick and aggressive? Not at all. I’m just a fan of planning ahead and using our collective power strategically especially if a government is initially sympathetic towards our cause. The NDP’s platform (IF they kept their promises) would have allowed us more time and resources to continue community initiatives and advocacy movements without so many burdens weighing us down. It’s uncharacteristically idealistic on my part, but I was willing to give them a shot.

So what’s changed? Why I am questioning elections and voting now? I believe the results of our election, the Wet’suwet’en crisis, the COVID-19 response, and whatever the hell is happening in the US election have all made me reconsider my idealism. The failure for any real political change in Canada in 2019 and by extension the toleration of scandals, corruption, and blatant hypocrisy was troubling. The federal and provincial response to the invasion of sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory and a militarized RCMP presence earlier this year (and last year) was disgraceful. There’s the COVID-19 pandemic being undermined by political bluster and then tended to by idiots who don’t give a shit whether people die as long as their stocks don’t go down. Finally, there’s the fact that Trump might get re-elected because the Democrats would rather shoot themselves in the foot than support even vaguely socialist policies. I want to go through each of these things one by one and examine why they hamper my desire to vote.

Photo Source: Globe and Mail, 2019

Let’s start with the 2019 Canadian election, shall we? We re-elected Trudeau and almost elected Andrew Scheer because the prairies were upset with Trudy. The NDP lost seats despite having a platform that offered critical reforms and put average people first (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but something). The Bloc Québécois rose from the fucking dead to become the #3 party because nothing makes sense anymore. The only positive was the humiliation of Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada who failed to spread their xenophobic populist dogma and Bernier lost his own riding in Quebec. Comedy gold right there. To see the Canadian people choose the same Liberal Party bullshit (or vote for Scheer out of spite/complacency/ignorance take your pick) instead of voting for some change was disheartening to say the least. Don’t even get me started on first-past-the-post and how Trudeau never fulfilled his promise from 2015 to reform our broken electoral system. FPTP allowed the Bloc Québécois to somehow end up with more seats despite not getting as many votes as the NDP. We were supposed to be okay with that result. I wasn’t. It’s goddamn ridiculous. What’s the point if our elected representatives don’t fix anything and we can’t even get fair representation? Honestly, the 2019 election had me questioning a lot about why we put up with this nonsense every election cycle.

Photo Source: CBC, 2020.

The Wet’suwet’en crisis in British Columbia is a giant slap in the face to reconciliation in Canada. I won’t go into detail here cause there’s a lot of history and politics involved, but in short the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en peoples of Northern BC are against the Coastal GasLink pipeline being pushed through their lands. In true diplomatic fashion, the militarized RCMP invaded their unceded and sovereign territory and began antagonizing and arresting land defenders on behalf of the company and the BC government. This conflict initially began in early 2019, but reached a fever pitch in February of this year when matriarchs of the Wet’suwet’en were being arrested and more photos emerged of the fully armed RCMP presence on the territory. Solidarity actions began immediately all over Canada and resulted in the shutdown of rail lines, ports, highways, and even the throne speech ceremony at the BC legislature. #ShutDownCanada, #WetsuwetenStrong, and #ReconciliationisDead were trending on social media as protests brought Canada to a grinding halt. Anyway, I brought this ongoing crisis up because it’s been a near perfect judge of character for politicians.

Photo Source: Toronto Star, 2020

The Wet’suwet’en crisis can be seen as a litmus test for a politician’s quality. Conclusion: most are lemons. You have Scheer bitching about protester “privilege” even as he siphons party funds to pay private school fees for his kids. You have Trudeau pulling the “it’s the province’s problem” card and doing shit all. Jason Kenney was cloistered in his “war room” with angry tears dropping onto his piles of fossil fuel kickbacks. You have John Horgan bending to CGL interests and delaying/refusing meetings with Wet’suwet’en leadership. I voted for the NDP and Horgan a few years back in order to oust Christy Clark and her piss-poor BC Liberals, but his record as an ally thus far has been less than stellar. We’ve also had to contend with the biased media reporting of the crisis which has tried to paint land defenders as “paid protesters” and violent “anarchists” with zero connection to the Wet’suwet’en. Unsurprisingly, practically no politicians spoke up about the clear media slant and just let it slide to further the State’s agenda. The crisis ended up getting the attention of the United Nations who condemned it as a human rights violation, but our elected representatives paid them no mind either. Again, we’re just supposed to be perfectly fine with how all of that went down.

Photo Source: The Guardian, 2020.

Political leaders are now facing a new test with COVID-19. Years of under-funding human necessities like schools and hospitals and abusing already unregulated capitalism have left us wide open for infection. Some politicians are stepping up and I’ll give them their due here, but many have chosen to show their true colours and reveal their real motivations. There are politicians like Texas’ lieutenant governor Dan Patrick who told Tucker Carlson that “there are more important things than living” when arguing for his state to reopen despite coronavirus. Las Vegas mayor, Carolyn Goodman, basically said that she was willing to open up casinos to the public immediately and was rightly criticised for such a aggressively stupid idea in the middle of a goddamn pandemic. Trump’s being himself and promoting bleach cures from nutjob groups, lashing out at scientists/WHO, blaming Obama, and calling on America to reopen despite a lack of testing and way more cases emerging every day. US cases have surpassed 1.5 million and the death toll is over 93,000 as of May 20th, but hey open’er up anyway cause we’ve got hair appointments to get to. There’s also Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro who likened COVID-19 to “a little flu” and in response to an economic shutdown in order to save lives he stated that “you can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents”. In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was encouraging people to go out for dinner and continued to hold large rallies where he shook hands and kissed fans. Here in Canada, Quebec has the most cases of COVID-19 by a mile (over 43,000 as of May 16th), but Premier François Legault has been hell-bent on reopening as quickly as possible. Retail stores in Quebec are set to reopen today and daycares on June 1st despite cases continuing to spring up in the province. Doug Ford (a man who has placed more value on cheap beer than children’s education) has continued to push for Ontario’s opening though thankfully a bit slower than Quebec. He almost got a golf clap from me (until I came to my senses) for closing schools and pushing for more tests, but then he went and opened golf courses (the literal last places we need open, but rich folks were getting cabin fever), the care homes he defunded and neglected saw a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, and public parks have seen a wave of entitled dumb ass people congregating like nothing’s wrong. Granted I can’t fully blame Ford for stupid folks soaking up the sun/virus, but I can still question why they feel emboldened to do so during a pandemic. Maybe it’s all those education cuts…really makes you think. Horgan’s BC government did something with rent/utility relief, but he’s also allowed for crowded man camps to continue work on pipelines while protesters are unable to gather. So…CGL’s got a secret cure or what’s the virus containment plan there? Taking COVID-19 seriously shouldn’t be a test for the quality of our elected officials (cause ideally every single one of them should), but hey here we are in crazy town.

Picture Source: Insider, 2019
Photo Source: Slate, 2017
Photo Source: Metro, 2020

VERSUS

CBS News, 2019
Photo Source: Daily Mail, 2020
Photo Source: New York Times, 2020

Finally, let’s discuss the US election cause it’s getting really hard to ignore that raging dumpster fire across the border. To start, Donald Trump might get re-elected because the DNC’s prize horse is Joe Biden whose history of racist/sexist policies and actions is only overshadowed by his inherent need to sniff women on camera. The other Democrats dropped out of the race and, despite their “progressive” talk on the campaign trail, they backed an establishment candidate with no real appeal. Now Americans have to choose the lesser evil or else they directly/indirectly help a guy backed by the Klan. Democracy! They can vote for a third party sure, but look how well that went last time. They only candidate with progressive policies was driven out of the race (again) because the establishment couldn’t take all that “working class people should get health care and education” malarkey. I have my issues with Bernie Sanders, but the guy was in it for the right reasons and has actually walked the walk in his career. He didn’t need to make up some Nelson Mandela story for street cred with the leftists. Democratic Socialism is just capitalism-lite essentially but, like with the NDP here, it would have served as a foundation for radical change. Their election will be utter horseshit so it’s easy to see why so many people down there are disillusioned with the idea of voting. What’s the point when nothing changes and any candidate who proposes change is tossed aside in favour of a loser who’ll toe the line?

Vote Obi-Wan 2020

My views regarding politics and politicians are cynical, but I feel they aren’t without reason. All too often politics goes the way of a vanity project for our potential leaders without enacting any lasting, positive changes for society. Elections quickly devolve into a parade of empty promises and mudslinging that only ends when the most corporate-friendly candidate is chosen. Despite having so-called leadership, the situation for working class folks just keeps getting worse with the rising cost of living, uncertain employment, inadequate housing, lack of affordable healthcare, the wealth gap, violence through mass shootings and unchecked cops, a biased justice system, and a friggin’ virus on our doorstep. We elect leaders to change things for the better, but most of the changes I’ve seen have come from below while politicians are busy preening for the camera. I, like most citizens, want to have faith in our democratic system, but every election makes it clear that nothing will change unless we force the hands of our representatives. The Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions, rent strikes, prison strikes, and countless community initiatives in the midst of COVID-19 are clear examples of citizens stepping up to lead when politicians fail to do so. I’ve come to realize the only chance a vote has to make a difference in our system is to bring about a foundation for change, but no politician or party will ever be our sole answer. You and I shouldn’t be waiting around for some political saviour anyhow, but rather working alongside friends, family and neighbours to enact changes ourselves. Now I can’t tell you whether to vote or not and I won’t try cause everyone has different reasons for voting or abstaining. All I know is that mediocre results, stagnant reforms, broken promises, and the toleration of corruption have me questioning a lot of things I used to believe about politics and the people we elect. In short, we shouldn’t have to settle for less every time we enter a voting booth or check a bubble. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again. Solidarity, my friends.

X.S.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s