It’s been humbling to see the hunger – the pure courage – citizens living under repressive regimes have demonstrated to claim the basic right of free and fair elections.
And it’s troubling to contrast that passion with the stilted complacency which sometimes develops, where liberty is taken for granted.
I happen to be a dual-national, entitled to vote in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. campaign cycle seems way too long and far too expensive. But it can generate a sense of excitement, at least in recent elections. Something that seems largely missing in Canada of late.
I keep wondering when and how might that change? Why should Egyptians have all the passion, when we enjoy those rights practically on a silver platter?
“The media” is often part of the problem, treating elections like horse races or simply repeating whatever the candidates say. Regular folks reasonably want to know: Can’t reporters ask harder questions? Blow the whistle on distortions or fabrications? Highlight issues that matter, not just the ones that look sexy or scandalous?
Canada has a Federal election May 2nd, so there isn’t much time to generate more meaningful, dynamic electoral participation between now and then. But there’s a real need for that.
The Toronto Star’s Carol Goar tackles this topic in her op-ed “How Canadian voters became election pawns”
It’s a good read, for either side of the border. First, a few details of the problem here in Canada:
…pollster Frank Graves of EKOS Research Associates provided a snapshot of the electorate now, using a survey of 984 randomly selected Canadians, conducted March 15-17.
• Sixty per cent of Canadians believe policy decisions should be based on reasoned debate. Seventeen per cent think they are.
• Sixty-nine per cent agree with the statement: “It really bothers me that hard scientific evidence isn’t shaping public policy to the degree that it should.” Fifty-five per cent think the situation is self-correcting.
• Seventy-five per cent think average citizens should have the most influence in defining Canadian policy. Twenty-six per cent think they do.
His conclusion: A “vivid gap” exists between the public view of how things should work and what actually happens.
I’d guess a survey of U.S. voters might come back with similar dispiriting results. The column goes on to postulate how that could change.
Once Canadians grasp the power they have at their fingertips through the social media, they’ll start linking up with people who share their goals, building coalitions, spreading their message and demanding change, the optimists predicted.
As a Luddite (who doesn’t have a smart phone, Twitter or Facebook account) I’m not crazy about putting all hope in social media. But, however it comes about, I do want to see more engagement, more passion – more appreciation for the blessed, enviable right to shape our own destiny. And I don’t see much of that on display under the status quo.
We can do better. We have to do better. Democracy is too precious to take for granted. Or to be left to politicians and reporters!
Do you have ideas about how to make democracy more meaningful or press coverage more constructive?
Is social media the only new path forward?
What else might help?