Politics, Part 2

In part one, our hero was left feeling like neither the liberal party nor the conservative party (instances of these being the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States, or the Liberals and the Conservatives in Canada) was truly his (or her) party.

Stephanie commented on Part 1 and noted that it’s not just the conservative parties that have stopped being classically conservative, but the liberal parties have stopped being classically liberal as well. 

There’s a real disconnect between what a political party has to promise to get elected, and what they do once they are in power.  Broken promises are a consistent theme in politics.  I’m thinking there’s a good reason for this.

Trying to get elected is a delicate balance between trying to make everyone happy while seeming like a capable leader.  Trying to make everyone happy is easy:  Promise everyone something they will like.  On the campaign trail you’ll find speeches tailored to the audience.  If they’re in an industrial town then it’s all about how much they’re going to do for industry.  If they’re talking to the women’s knitting circle then it’s all about what they’ll do to bring down the high cost of yarn.  You get the point.

But there isn’t a significant group of people anywhere that a politican will stand up in front of and say “we need to cut how much money we’re spending on your cause” or even “we’re spending a ton of money on your cause, I hope you’re happy”.

So they promise the moon, the people buy into it and they get elected.  Now what? 

Politicans can blatantly break the promises that got them elected, and still get elected. 

In 1993, Jean Chr├ętien in Canada promised to eliminate the GST (a 7% goods and services tax) and then simply didn’t do it.  He used the money the government was making from the GST to eliminate the deficit, which was probably a better move, but it’s not what he promised to do.  And he got re-elected. 

The Liberal party was elected in Ontario in 2003 after winning the election largely on a promise not to raise taxes, and the same year instituted a new “Health Premium” of $300 to $900 that was billed separately from taxes.  Not only did they break this promise, but they did it in a way that called it out and drew attention to it.  And in 2007, they won a majority government.

Wikipedia has an article that explores more broken promises.

So not only do the parties not stand for the issues they were created to represent, but they don’t even stand for the things they say they stand for.  It’s no wonder voters are apathetic.

But our country hasn’t fallen apart.  It’s tended to do fairly well in fact, because it’s not in one person’s power to really screw things up.  Governments are made up of a lot of smart people, who realize the difference between election promises and running a responsible government.  And the people on either side generally have a bias towards the party’s stated values, so things will tend to move in the direction defined by the ruling party.

So you choose a party that seems like it’s current ideals align more closely with yours on some issues that you care about, vote, and hope those are the issues that they choose to follow through on.  Is this the best we can do?