Friday, March 30, 2007

We Are All Just Market Segments Now

Greg Staples' posting yesterday bothered me. He pointed out how the Tories are aiming to turn the "suburban vote" toward them and "against" the Liberals (and NDP). That bothered me, first because it didn't seem to bother him, and because I think at its best, politics and politicians should be trying to bridge differences rather than bombing those bridges. Coincidentally, Susan Riley's column today has that same sense of disquiet:
People grow and change, of course, while opportunists follow the money (and power). Often, however, it is hard to tell the difference. Nor does it help that political parties reduce us to retail demographics: the Tim Hortons crowd versus Starbucks-sippers, hockey dads and soccer moms versus academic snobs and downtown dilettantes, or the NDP spin -- "average Canadians" and "working families" versus the "wealthiest CEOs."

Notice the word "versus." Politics has always been a competitive sport, but Harper has professionalized this divisive instinct, partly with the help of imported strategists. It also propelled Dumont's recent breakthrough -- this carving electors into watertight compartments labeled urban/rural, or immigrant/old stock, or family-oriented/single. It creates a nation of outsiders/ insiders; it appeals to old resentments, not to shared dreams.
What bothers me most is it is an imported "red state/blue state" mentality that dismisses whole segments of the population, just because they either live in the wrong place or are artificially identified as enemies of the people. As Riley points out, this kind of politics creates two classes of voters, those who count and those who deserve only contempt. It is a bad place for our poltics to go. We should get off this train.

Update: Another thing that upsets me is the usurption of our national symbols by this government. There was a time when the military and police were our neighbours, our boys, everyone's. Now, they "belong" only to the Harper government. No one is allowed to love them as much as they do. If you don't agree with every decision of the government, you "obviously" hate the police and military. It is a terrible (and disgusting) thing to have. It is also a dangerous thing in a democracy, for one party to claim to have a monopoly on patriotism.
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