T-9: Combatting the Cynicism of Politics #elxn42 #canpoli

There’s a lot of commonly accepted wisdom you hear that reflect the increasing amount of cynicism that people have towards the political process…

They’re all the same.
There are definitely good and bad people involved in all parties.  But saying that all politicians are bad simply because they’re politicians is as simplistic (and wrong!) as saying “all teachers are the same” or “All doctors are the same” or whatever.

My Vote Doesn’t Matter
Even if you’re in a riding where your preferred party isn’t likely to win or you vote for a fringe party, it’s still important to vote.  Beyond that old line about “You can’t complain if you don’t vote” (which many people agree with but I’m not a particular fan of since I think everyone has the right to complain no matter what!), there’s the reality that, in recent elections where turnout usually hovers around 60% and is split between 3+ parties, there’s not a single election where 100% turnout couldn’t have changed the results of the election.  I think I read somewhere that any party that gets over 10% of the vote (?) in a riding also gets a refund on a portion their eligible election expenses so even if you live in the heart of Tory Alberta and vote NDP or Liberal, you’re helping the democratic process by ensuring those parties get some money back for their efforts.

I Don’t Have Time
There are people whose personal circumstances do make it more of an effort to get to the polls – a single mom with three kids, someone without transportation, or whatever. But a federal election happens only once every four years or so.  And since this is the longest election campaign in history, there’s been plenty of time to make arrangements to get to the polls.  Most parties also have “get out the vote” (GOTV) efforts on election day where volunteers will offer rides to the polls or help facilitate the process for you in any way that they can.  As my grade seven teacher used to say when someone said they didn’t have time to get their homework done, “You didn’t have the time or you didn’t *make* the time?”

The Government Sucks/They Don’t Do Anything For Me Anyhow
General cynicism about politics can lead to increased cynicism about the important role of goverment.  This is even helped along (hopefully unintentionally) by the media, which should have a role in impartially covering the issues but end up creating cynicism by covering politics and elections like they were horse races or sporting events.  Even political parties can contribute the cynicism with their attempts to discourage certain groups that are unlikely to vote for them from participating or just by giving the impression that they don’t listen to the public.

But ultimately, you don’t have to agree with everything the government does (I don’t like high military spending for instance) to still recognize that part of your social contract as a citizen of our society is that by pooling our resources, via the government, everyone gets to share in the many important services that the private sector can’t or won’t provide as effectively – healthcare, highways, economic policy and about a zillion other things that we all benefit from. If you try to take a larger view and not be cynical about things that only affect you but keep a focus on how our society is doing overall, you can approach these issues in a less cynical fashion.

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