Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Elizabeth May wins the leaders' debate

Some years ago on the little island where I live, an election campaign was in progress to send a local representative to the Islands Trust, the political body that represented us at the time. A local non-partisan group, led by a very nice progressive man, organized everything : the debates, the campaign literature, all the tedious underpinnings of democracy. They hired me to photograph the candidates.

I was setting up to shoot the obligatory family shot of Iain Benson - lawyer, christian, anti-abortion social conservative, and generally a guy who I disagree with about almost everything, when he asked if we were also going to do a nice family shot of Candidate X, local redneck yahoo who had recently made some rather unflattering and distinctly not worksafe public remarks about Iain being, um, an intellectual elitist - let's just go with that.

"We'll look into that," said nice progressive man.
"Could you look into it now?"asked Iain politely.
"For fuck's sake, Iain," says I, realizing he was actually going to refuse to be photographed unless his rival was included.
"Well wouldn't you say Candidate X has a legitimate constituency here that deserves the same consideration you're extending to me?"
Nice progressive man points out the other four candidates might not agree.
"That's ok," says Iain, "we'll call them up."

Look, I know how annoying this story is. Personally I never want another lesson in ethics or civics from a SoCon ever again but he was right : It isn't about the candidate and whether you like them or not or whether they would do the same for you; it's about their constituency, their supporters - whether you agree with them or not.
May has a constituency running at somewhere under 10% in the polls. I imagine by this time tomorrow the reaction to her being shut out of the leadership debate will have driven it a lot higher.

Losers in the leaders' debate : Harper, Layton, Duceppe. And because of their hypocritical anti-democratic actions, the rest of us too.

What Greg said.

And while we're at it, how about taking final say on what happens in election debates out of the hands of the media!

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech." ~ Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent

We also have an obligation where elections are concerned to ensure that free speech is heard.


saskboy said...

I've added you to my growing list of bloggers who recognize Layton and Harper as cowards for this boycott of theirs.

West End Bob said...

Spot on, Alison . . . .

West End Bob said...

As an afterthought, did the election on the island you referred to have anything to do with male-dominated football games, tree houses and AstroTurf, perchance ? ? ? ? :)

Alison said...

Saskboy : Um, thanks. I think. I would not agree that their act was cowardly - more a tactically dumb insistance on playing by self-serving undemocratic rules that will only benefit Harper in the end.
But yeah, it's still wrong.

WEB : No, ;-), at the time it was more about preserving a more rural way of life. But losing that fight led straight to Astro-turf.

Chrystal Ocean said...

Great post Alison. The issue is about preserving (what's left of) our democracy. You're exactly right that it's not about who any one of us likes or dislikes, but about voters having the option to decide among candidates and parties on the basis of as much knowledge as possible.

Gazetteer said...

I say, force the media consortium to set aside one hour between 8 and 9pm every single goldarned day of the campaign (rotating between each of the time zones) for a debate for all comers using that 5% or elected MP rule.

Again..... Every single day....On all the National networks.... For a full hour... As a condition of their license.... From the day the writ is dropped until the day before we vote...

That way, if any of the leaders don't show up (either live or by video feed - that's what direct uplinks and/or the newest blackberries are for) they do so at their own peril (or not).

Additionally, that way we, the people, wouldn't have to guess at what the leaders' 'messages' actually are because they would be forced to deliver and defend them themselves.

Every single day.


And don't tell me it can't be done. After all, we do it for much longer than five weeks, every spring, for the hockey play-offs....


West End Bob said...

Yay, RossK!

Excellent idea, and therefore no doubt it will never be implemented. Too much information to the Public is not politician - or media - friendly . . . .

Alison said...

It is an excellent idea and I think it would have more traction with the public than the media imagines in their quest to restrict the sound bytes to just mano o manos.

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