A little moderation, please

Political candidates like to talk about ‘unity’ and running a ‘positive’ campaign. But ones who really mean that are hard to find. When you start listening to what they have to say you realize pretty quickly their notions of unity and positivity only extend to people who think the way they do.

For example: It seems most candidates buy into the idea that in order to win you have to demonize the opposition. In the case of the United Conservative Party folks, there’s an almost comical reliance on the idea that a Rachel Notley NDP is hell bent on destroying the economy. It’s an article of faith, apparently unexamined. It’s also nonsense, of course. In the context of the Alberta NDP, there was (and presumably would be) a marginally higher corporate tax rate, and marginally greater emphasis on social programs and such. UCPers are very fond of blaming the Notley government for the steep downturn the oil and gas industry experienced, which was of course in full swing when Alberta voters elected the NDP in 2015. Details, details. Candidates trying to stir people up don’t let such things get in the way of a good story.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s an article of faith with some NDP types that the UCP government is hell bent on enriching their corporate bedmates, at the expense of the overburdened health care and education (what have you) workers, for whom they have little or no compassion. Let alone the even less-fortunate members of society. Tax breaks galore, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, etc.

Again, that is only marginally the case. Anyone in government knows damn well they can’t ignore the programs that keep society working. The people threw a conservative government out before; they can do it again. That should be enough to keep anybody honest.

Extreme positions are good for rallying the impressionable, perhaps. But they do no credit to the perpetrators, who come off looking more like opportunists than honest, candid, well-meaning people.

That’s the view from here. But apparently being moderate and giving your opponents the benefit of the doubt is not in the political playbook.

And here’s another thing. This business of demonizing the ‘other side’ has consequences that reach well beyond election campaigns. It can and does result in a hardening of positions into ‘us’ vs. ‘them,’ resulting in an unwillingness or inability to work together once one party or the other has won the election. It’s happening in the U.S. to a shocking degree, and it is happening here too. Too many of us are buying into it as the way things should be. They shouldn’t. There has to be the possibility of moving back to the middle, meeting and working together to get things done in a civilized manner.

But when you’ve painted your opponents as agents of disaster, stirring up fear and hatred, you are going to reap what you sow, and we’ll all be worse off for it.

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