We should approach the next election with caution. That's because the nature of electoral politics in Canada has changed. Michael Harris writes:
The old electoral politics of presentation, explanation and proof are mostly dead. Politicians no longer court you, they stalk you. They don’t campaign, they spy, cheat, chisel and connive their way into office.
There have always been rainmakers, fixers, and crooks hanging around politics like flies in a barnyard. But the new technologies, and the access to personal information they bring, have turned them into pure predators. American conservative strategist Vincent Harris is the latest incarnation of this phenomenon, though he has many predecessors like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove.
For public consumption, people like Vincent Harris say they advise the media teams of politicians. Their real task is to create public opinion and herd the masses by way of distortion. They push and pull voters as if they were an accordion.
The folks who run campaigns are essentially running cons and we are the marks. They consider most of us easy marks. Therefore, Harris recommends a few strategies to keep the con men at bay:
Your first line of defence against the election bandits is your telephone. Never, I repeat, never listen to a telephone recording, let alone act on one. A lot of people who did in the last federal election exercised their legs, not their franchise. Now that Harper’s strategically weakened new elections legislation makes life markedly easier for would-be cheaters, we are certain to see the sequel: Son of Robocalls. When you know it’s a recording, just hang up. Don’t let them use your telephone as a Trojan horse to enter your head.
Vote for somebody who actually appears and answers your questions, face-to-face, in a way that satisfies you. As for the one who shoves his literature in your face while asking if he can expect your support, all in 30 seconds, tell him to come back in a week and you’ll talk about it. If he doesn’t come back, line the bird-cage with his bumph.
Take pollsters with a grain of salt – and make that a five-pound bag when they are doing their surveys for an election that hasn’t been called. Remember that not all polls are created equal. There are real pollsters with proven methodologies and there are those who fly by night. There are professionals who aim to reveal public opinion, and partisans in pollsters’ clothing who use pretend polls to generate their own public opinion.
Technology has made it easier to con voters. But there is one rule that remains true:
Inform yourself. Look at what the people who want their power renewed have done with it so far, and at what those who seek power say they will do if they get it.
Thomas Jefferson was an advocate of public education because he believed that democracy couldn't function without it. The people running the show assume we wish to remain stupid.