Political discourse deteriorates

What’s your definition of boring, bland, yawn inducing? For myself it’s predictability above all else. From a purely partisan perspective, I suppose this now on going media categorization of the NDP leadership race as "boring" is a welcome frame, but really it does a disservice to the wider political climate. What is more maddening, the recurring frame shows no relationship to reality, because every NDP debate has been JAM packed, NDP membership signups are impressive, the NDP were forced to MOVE their convention site to a BIGGER location because SO many people are coming. All the empirical cues point to a rank and file engaged, real world excitement and yet everyday we have to endure this manufactured frame that this race is boring everyone to tears. Please point to me the last internal party leadership race that captured the imagination of the wider Canadian population? Never happens, and if that’s the self determined benchmark, it’s a false standard.

Students of Canadian politics will note a reoccurring lament that our political discourse is deteriorating, politicians don’t talk substance, they hurl insults, places like Question Period have become unseemly exercises, all "theater", all "show". And yet, a recent effort to raise the level of discourse, stop the cat calls, was met with "this is boring", "it’s too nice in here", the same profession which clamors for high brow discourse couldn’t handle civility. And herein lies the rub, the inherent contradiction, our media need a "story", without a juicy angle, certain intrigue, sensational elements, there is no compelling narrative. A deeper look reveals that we the "client" are simply receiving what we appeal to, the audience is the final arbitrator and we eat up the fluff and bombast, at the expense of serious discourse. In other words, blame is a complicated discussion, so any observation isn’t really an indictment, just a recognition of the state of things. We live in a world wherein scribes lament the lack of focus on serious issues, the "tone" of our discourse and yet when confronted with said want, they react with a yawn and demand some sizzle.

If the NDP are playing "nice" with each other, what is wrong with that, why is that "boring"? Does that dynamic come with a lack of compelling ideas put forth? No, we have a Brian Topp who completely wants to redo our approach to taxes in a fundamental way. We have a Nathan Cullen proposing a very bold electoral arrangement that would alter the political landscape in truly remarkable fashion. We have Thomas Mulcair attempting to move the NDP towards the center, should he win, the direction of that party will profoundly change. In other words, there is much to chew on within this race, real philosophical questions, that go beyond "knockout" punches and acrimony. I predict we will start to see more jostling as this race reaches crescendo, but that’s not the point, nor is that some sort of imperative as the "boring" cries imply. 

If nobody was showing up to the debates, if membership drives were pedestrian, if this convention was poorly attended, if there were no serious proposals on the table, these type of measures could support a "boring" argument. However, as it stands, "boring" looks nothing more than a perceived lack of friction, required ingredient for a "story", but of no relevance to what constitutes a successful leadership process.

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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1 Comment

  1. I’ve been so frustrated with the media coverage of this race. I wish Nathan Cullen’s joint nomination meeting proposal would get more attention from the press. I find it especially infuriating when journalists compare this race to the Republican primary. Of course the Republicans are getting a lot of attention, the Republican primary is like a train wreck you can’t look away from!

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