Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Polarized Politics

Well aware that the universe does not revolve around the City of Toronto, which is within an hour's drive of my abode, I rarely write posts that pertain to it. I make an infrequent exception today because of a greater truth that the risible antics of its mayor gives rise to.

It is hardly a revelation to say that we live in poisonously polarized times; for this troubling fact I lay the bulk of blame at the clay feet of the extreme right-wing. I have opined many times here that the Harper government is the most divisive in our history, reliant as it is on tactics ranging from demagoguery to name-calling to open contempt for our democratic traditions. And the results of that elevation of party politics over the well-being of the country is evident in many ways, including the recently reported loss of faith in democracy.

Nonetheless, I was reminded of how much I too have fallen victim of this polarization when The Mound of Sound responded to one of my posts about Mr. Harper:

I never much liked the Progressive Conservative party although there were some MPs I truly did respect and I held no enmity to most PC supporters. The Harper Conservatives are a different story entirely. I despise the party, its Fuhrer and its MPs and Senators. I don't feel much better about those who vote for it either. Harper has divided and shamed the nation and those who support him are responsible.

The Mound's comment made me remember earlier times in our political history when I felt little ill-will towards those who embraced a political philosophy different from my own, times when disagreements could be reasonably discussed and resolutions often found. One example would be the long reign of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, in part attributable to the steady hand of Bill Davis, the premier from 1971-85, one of a long line of Conservative premiers who governed with both moderation and consensus.

So how does this pertain to the ongoing sad spectacle of Rob ford and his thuggish brother Doug? In his column today entitled It’s time for conservatives to rescue the brand, Royson James, The Star's municipal affairs columnist, offers the following observation:

Reasonable, fiscal and progressive conservatives should be very concerned that the current city hall administration has damaged the right-wing brand...

They are red Tories and blue Liberals and practical New Democrats and they’ve managed to build a city with heart — an urban region that does such a good job balancing the interests of its people that this has become a brand admired and recognized around the world.

James has much more to say, essentially arguing that there are good and able people of moderation much more fit to help govern the city than the current administration, and that it is in the interests of those people to see the end of Rob Ford's reign, even if they identify themselves with the right. I hope you will take the time to read his entire piece.

For me, James' column is both a poignant reminder of the way things used to be on all levels of government, and an indication of what is still possible if both politicians and voters act out of concern for the collective good rather than the selfish advancement of their personal agendas. Without doubt, we have had enough of the latter.

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