Susan Delacourt writes that Ontario's election highlights how short voters' attention spans have become. After all, ghosts haunted each of the party leaders:
The ironic part of the past Ontario campaign, as several commentators pointed out, is that all the leaders were contending with ghosts: Kathleen Wynne with the memory of her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty; NDP Leader Andrea Horwath with the old Bob Rae government; and Doug Ford, the new premier-to-be, with memories of the old Mike Harris Conservative years at Queen’s Park.
Attacks along these lines presumed a lot about the long-term memory of voters in the era of short-termism. When last week is a distant memory, who votes based on what happened a couple of decades ago in Ontario?
In years past, those ghosts could have sunk any one of the three leaders. But, in the fifteen years the Liberals assumed in power, many things have changed:
Consider this: the last time that a non-Liberal government was in charge at Queen’s Park, there was no such thing as Facebook (launched in 2004); YouTube (2005); Twitter (2006) or even, yes, iPhones, first unveiled by Steve Jobs in 2007.
In the fall of 2003, when Liberals first took power in Ontario, Stephen Harper hadn’t yet united the right-wing federal parties in Canada and Donald Trump, a New York real-estate magnate, was still months away from the debut of a reality-TV show called The Apprentice.
Trump, in particular, knows how to play on the public's short memory:
In just under 600 days in office, Trump has brazened on through multiple, major scandals and controversy; any one of which might have toppled a predecessor.
Trump gambles, often correctly, that no one will remember what he said previously, so he doesn’t bother much with explanations about when he changes his mind or states the opposite position later.
It’s called populism, as Trump practises it, but it often hinges on a dim view of the populace — particularly with regard to the public attention span. The better description for this brand of politics might be “short-termism.”
Short-termism puts an end to history. And, as George Santayana noted, those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.