Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A question of tone.

"Great minds discuss ideas, small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I was listening to CBC radio the other day, while driving, and the show was a call-in show about the provincial election in Ontario. The announcer had opened the phone lines to callers, and there was an interesting trend in the calls. For the most part, those who said they voted Liberal (and there were quite a few, owing to the listenership of CBC) were polite, and enthusiastic about another Liberal government term.

One Conservative got on, and started calling Ontario voters idiots, and stupid, and then told the host before being cut off that the people had been bent over a barrel with no lubrication.

If he wanted to argue policy, I would have listened to him. He could have pointed out that Hudak proposed making prisoners work (with which I don't necessarily disagree), or that there's a greater need for tracking sexual predators (good idea), or that there was a need for megaprisons (I don't see it), or he could even to skip the line into Federal politics and argue about Harper's term, to show that Hudak would be more of the same. In fact, I actually would have begged for more air time for him if he could have actually illustrated Hudak's platform, as nobody had been able to do that previously in the whole election.

No, it degenerated into this crap. Call it what you like. Bullyism. Trollism. Vulgarism. Tea Party politics. The best place to find it right now is on the internet. Click on any random news article about an election, or a leader, and scroll down to the comments. Or if you can't find an example, here are a couple:

"Fed up with rising prices, higher taxes, fewer opportunities,  a grim outlook for the future?
Tough shit. In not voting, you voted for it. So eat it."

Again, tone. Some others:

"Don't like Big Daddy Dalton's antics? Education is what I'm all about, and I'm not even a member of a union.  I do it for nothing.  Go figure."
"The disregard for taxpayer's money is discusting. (sic)"

Looking beyond the policies, I believe the problem is that conservatives use anger arguments while liberals use policy arguments. We speak two different languages. Instead of arguing the facts, conservatives use conjecture and rarely back anything up with solid numbers. Liberals put up statistics and references that the average conservative doesn't trust and doesn't read. In the States they are seeing the results of about forty years of anger politics. Their system is a mess. As soon as they opened the door with Nixon, a thug if there ever was one, they ended up with bully politics spoiling the whole thing, and, now, people occupying Wall Street against corporate greed.

That has more to do with what the Conservative party has to offer than what it fights against. They say they support the 'working families' of the province, and then say they'll do away with Collective bargaining, and cancel a green energy program providing over 70,000 jobs. They want to do away with 'wasteful spending', and yet can't say where they would cut the spending. They offer the same divisive crap they've offered since the Reform alliance.

Mulroney is a prime example of attacking the incumbent, then doing whatever he wanted when in power. Harris promised the same cuts and reigning in spending, and was elected on it. While most conservatives forget that he eviscerated our economy under pretense of balancing the budget, with Hudak as one of his MPP's, liberals remember the closing 22 hospitals and education system being gutted; the demonizing of teachers and Unions in the media. These were their neighbours, and friends, and the people who taught their children, and the attacks hit home in a way that Harris didn't intend. Most importantly from that, we expected fiscal prudence, and received $9Bil in defecit. There is a Tory amnesia there, just as there is an unwillingness to acknowledge any of the successes of any Liberal government before or since.

Conservatives rely on the anger vote, and play to this to try to whip up a frenzy. If they didn't, they'd drift from their traditional rural, aged, and angry voter base. In a social democracy though, the anger vote doesn't go very far. As soon as urbanites read the attacks, it falls dead. In cities, consensus is the norm. They are tired of attack politics, where rural people thrive on it.

Hudak attacked 'the taxman' McGuinty (a typical straw-man technique) saying the taxes are already are too high. Well what is defined as too high? Did he look at what we get for those taxes, or did he use generalities to attack without providing examples? It's hard to sell a 'high tax' myth to a people whose overall tax burden is 43rd of all countries in the world, and among the lowest of industrial nations. (That's overall tax burden, as a percentage of GDP, agglomerated from the whole country as reported by the Heritage Foundation. Or, if you like, 33rd in the world for data taken from Ontario, as ranked by Forbes magazine. Similar figures available from the CIA factbook for cross reference if you're interested)

Again, research.

Conservatives point out hat their party has changed. I disagree. It was the anger vote that got Harris in, and if Tim Hudak and John Tory are an indication of Conservative party offerings for the next election as well, we'll have to put up with the same divisive, angry dialogue that conservatives have been showing us for decades. Why? That is how they believe they can win. Without a change in tactics we'll have another Liberal government, and deservedly so.

To win, consistently, the Conservative party has to offer something concrete, not just hatred. If they illustrate a platform that protects healthcare and education (I mean really protected instead of lip-service), that protects collective bargaining and provides the middle class with well-paying jobs, supports green energy and meeting pollution reduction goals, fiscal prudence, all while maintaining the human rights that took centuries to build, then I would vote for them. So would most Liberal supporters.

But they don't. In fact they have, in their actions, proven to take stands exactly the opposite on all those points, while offering fluff gimmick style policies that get the rural votes while ignoring the core societal issues we MUST tackle to survive. The average conservative (and there are many exceptions whom I know very well) seems to be less educated, frustrated with politics in general, with the facts wrong and passions propelling them to hate liberalism for all the reasons the Conservative party gives them. They reject all standard benchmarks of measuring all the systems that matter the most.

How can anyone argue with that?

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Seven Gates

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The above examples of conservative quotes come from here:


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