Sunday, October 06, 2013

A Sad And Sorry State Of Affairs

Susan Delacourt's new book, Shopping For Votes: How Politicians Choose Us And We Choose Them is creating quite a stir. Delacourt's central thesis is that Canadians no longer act as citizens  -- with rights and responsibilities -- but as consumers, who are motivated by self interest, not the national interest.  Jeffrey Simpson wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail that:

It is a depressing book for anyone who believes in a broad public interest and the capacity of political parties (and the media) to even discuss that interest. It is more depressing still because this state of affairs reflects what we, the public, have come to expect.

Depressing but, unfortunately true. Delacourt herself writes:

“In a nation of consumer-citizens, the customer is always right. It is not the politician’s job to change people’s minds or prejudices, but to confirm them or play to them, to seal the deal of support. Speeches are not made to educate or inform the audience but to serve up marketing slogans. Political parties become ‘brands’ and political announcements become product launches.”

In practise, this means that what any party needs to govern is its core vote plus a small slice of the electorate:

For the Conservatives (and the NDP, for that matter), this means identifying only perhaps 10 per cent of the electorate beyond their core votes, then governing or campaigning only with them in mind. When the Conservatives make decisions in foreign or domestic policy, they think only about their core vote and this extra 10 per cent of political consumers.

And that makes a party leader a Director of Marketing, something which Stephen Harper has mastered:

The notion that he is surrounded by people who plan and execute the marketing is wrong. Mr. Harper directs the marketing, involving himself in all aspects of it, presiding over a huge staff who do nothing but focus on communications, event-planning and, at central party headquarters, organize a massive information-collection effort on citizens in every corner of Canada so as to better identify which voters will be most influenced by which message.

It's a sad and sorry state of affairs -- and it's toxic to democracy.


bcwaterboy said...

A model copied to perfection at the provincial level with BC being a prime textbook case. A premier who refuses to allow the legislature to sit, is always on the campaign trail literally vomiting out sound bite after soundbite. The marketing has been brilliant to bring Clark, an unelectable moron from the depths of scandal to lead the province. Little do the consumers know, this marketing director has zero to offer the province, much the same as her master harper at the federal level

Owen Gray said...

Old Joe Kennedy -- a master of self promotion -- reportedly told his son Jack: "It's not who you are that counts. It's who people think you are."

What's amazing, waterboy, is that people keep falling for this horse manure.

gingersnap said...

Ex BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, is Harper's favorite henchman. Harper rewarded Campbell the post of, High Commissioner to the U.K. Campbell did a lot of dirty work for Harper. Christy Clark also works for Harper, as Campbell did before her.

Christy Clark's economic and job action plans, are identical to Harper's. Christy doesn't have any either. Harper prorogues Parliament. Christy prorogues Legislature. Harper's list of degenerates is, as long as his arm. Campbell as his best. Campbell was so drunk, he even drove on the wrong side of the road. Christy hired another of Harper's henchmen Boessenkool. He was so drunk, he did some serious misconduct, to a female staffer.

Harper has attended Parliament, 5 days in 6 months. No-one remembers the last time the BC Legislature, had a session?

Owen Gray said...

These folks are cut from the same bolt of cloth, gingersnap. The party names are different. But they're all made from the same material.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me this sort of thing happens in the absence of real knowledge about issues. For instance Canadians don't know anything about the two important trade deals being negotiated right now. Seems to me if we had a media which covered issues like this citizens could make better decisions. When was the last time any of you read an article covering the provisions of these agreements. I have to read blogs to get my knowledge. And no one has covered the fact that RCMP forensic labs are being shut down when they are so badly needed. We learn less and less. No wonder we are so easily manipulated.

Owen Gray said...

Most of the media are complicit in this cynical manipulation of the public, Anon.

The Toronto Star, to its credit, is no ally of the Harper government. But most of our other papers have become Harperite cheerleaders.