Monday, March 12, 2012

A POX ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES

Deliver Voice Messages to Hundreds or Thousands of Constituents Fast!

Political campaigns are not the social thing they used to be. With the noticeable exception of Jack Harris's last campaign, I have noticed a significant change in the number of volunteers working for candidates.  There was a time when there were enough volunteers to knock on doors, put up signs, identify voters by phone, update voters lists, cook meals and assist the candidate.

Less and less people seem willing to give of their time for the cause. I think it is a symptom of political apathy. Even hard core party supporters are less inclined to lend a helping hand, for free. The vacuum has been filled by robo-calls and paid "volunteers". A campaigns biggest expenditure has become the payout on election day for "volunteers" to work in polling stations, runners and callers.

Given this shift in how and who makes calls on behalf of candidates and parties, it is not surprising that the less scrupulous campaigners might play dirty and attempt to confuse, mislead and misdirect voters. In fact, it might be hard to resist in constituencies where polling stations change regularly and there are lots of newcomers. As well, call-centers want the work, they are less likely to question the practice. This shields party supporters from having to get their hands dirty or witness the ugly underbelly of the beast.

Canadians have been programmed to be less sensitive to political wrongdoing and exploitation.  The two parties that have traded governing this country have produced many scandals over the decades. So much so that Canadians are no prepared to judge one's sins as any worse than the other. The result is that voters have become so numb that they just do not care anymore. 

A startling apathy has set in. It is a gangerien that has infected our democratic institutions, poisoning citizen engagement and creating the cynically uninterested who do not vote. There is a strong belief that politicians cannot-be trusted,  that they lie and fail to keep their promises. In television/radio interviews, they often avoid answering questions and never give straight answers. They are oft considered hypocritical, in advocating good behavior for others and yet not living up to these standards themselves. They used the media to manipulate their public image, by presenting a selective image, that more of us see right through the sleaze and scandals.

It was said with some frequency that politicians do not take their positions seriously and are only in politics to benefit from the system.

Fair or unfair, this is the perception, which is the reality of how voters view the world of politics. 

This Robo-call issue just serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes that all ready exist. Revelations that Liberal MP Frank Valeriote's campaign did not identify that it was behind an anti-Conservative robocall used during the last federal election in Guelph, Ontario, come as a kick in the guts to the Liberals who no longer have the "moral" high ground on this issue.. The riding is already the focus of an Elections Canada probe into opposition accusations that the Tories used automated messages to direct voters to the wrong polling stations.

If the Conservatives and the Liberals really want to get to the bottom of the robo-call scandal,  a public inquiry by a non-partisan body is in order.

Of course, if this turns out to be the pot calling the kettle black, the results will only reinforce the negative stereotypes that all ready exist.





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