Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mayoralty

The votes are in. Ford will be the next mayor of Toronto. I'm not happy with the result, but - as is always the case in free and fair elections - the people's choice has prevailed.

As was the case when the electorate of my homeland elected George Bush - not once, but twice! - it's a bit jarring to me that my fellow citizens could make such an obviously bad choice. But, as then, I'm forced to recognize that intelligent and well-meaning people can disagree. Not everyone who voted for Ford, or for Bush, is an idiot or a person of no moral character. Good people have made their choice - totally contradictory to my own - based on their own assessment of what will make a good leader, a wise approach to government, and ultimately, a better city to live in.

But I still have my criticisms. And my criticism is aimed more at the electorate than at the elected.

We, the electorate, continue to allow ourselves to be manipulated, by grossly distorted misrepresentations of what candidates have done and what they have intended. We tolerate superficial and uncritical reportage by the media, and the often arbitrary determination by that same media as to which candidates deserve our attention.

And, we allow ourselves to be manipulated via our fears more often than our dreams. We don't hold politicians and candidates to the standards that we expect of ourselves and those we interact with, when it comes to honest dealing and communication, to compromise, to a willingness to give credit where credit is due, and to evaluating and criticizing honestly and with integrity.

If we had a better informed and more responsible electorate, we'd have a higher quality candidate. But we don't credit what a truly difficult job it is to work in government, to negotiate and debate issues among those holding widely differing opinions, interests and values. We create our politicians, by rewarding them and penalizing them as we do,with our votes and our indifference.

This week, I found myself buying into a slogan of a particular campaign. I voted for Pantalone, though it was very clear he wouldn't win, based substantially on his call on voters to act not merely to keep a feared candidate from winning, but to support values and platforms we actually support and believe in.

Now that the campaign is done, and there exists the real possibility of city government turning in directions I cannot support, I have to challenge myself on how to be an involved and contributing citizen in opposition. How does one support the broader aims of well-functioning government and respect for majority rule, while still holding to principles that point to different programs and policies?

It's at least as difficult and important a job being a responsible citizen as it is being a responsible elected official.

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