I have always had an interest in politics. I taught social studies in high school for years and would passionately discuss politics with my students and give projects to them when election campaigns were on. I’ve even scrutineered once. For those of you who don’t know what a scrutineer is, in the British and Canadian systems, a scrutineer is an official examiner of votes in an election. There was even a time when I would have seriously considered running for office. I used to think politicians were honourable people and individuals to be admired for their service. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still a few honourable people who are leaders. However, as I watch the politicking of our neighbours to the south, I begin to wonder if honourable and honest people enter politics anymore.
You’re probably wondering why I say such a thing. I was recently watching some of the analysis on CNN regarding the most recent primaries that are happening in the United States. One of the commentators was discussing the insults that were exchanged between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, two candidates running for the Republican Party nomination for president. Here is an article about what I’m talking about –Us Election 2016. There were insults traded between the two candidates about misspelled tweets, wet trousers, wearing makeup and Trump ridiculing Marco Rubio for his love of drinking water. Apparently, in a State of the Union response speech in 2013 while on national television Mr. Rubio paused for a sip of water. But what really got me were their exchanges about sweating.
According to Business Insider, the exchange apparently happened backstage when they were debating one another. Mr. Rubio insinuated that Trump possibly “wet” himself. “He called me Mr. Meltdown,” Rubio went on to say, “Let me tell you, during one of the breaks — two of the breaks — he went backstage. He was having a meltdown. First he had this little makeup thing, applying makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches. Then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don’t know why, because the podium goes up to here. Maybe he was making sure his pants weren’t wet. I don’t know.
Trump countered with, “He’s with a pile of makeup putting it on his face, I said Marco, easy with the makeup, you don’t need that much. You know the story with Marco. I watched Marco with this man [Christie]. Where Marco, he was right over here I asked him I said are you okay? He looked like he just came out of a swimming pool. He was a mess.” Anyway, I’m sure you get what I’m talking about.
The first question I have is, Why are they throwing insults when I’m sure the American people want to hear about solutions to the problems the country faces? Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is, “Make America Great Again.” A great slogan I might add. But I seldom hear him telling the American people how he intends to do that. What I typically hear is insults flying and Trump being a bully. The other Republican candidates don’t seem to be a whole lot better. Are these the best candidates that America has to offer, candidates throwing insults at one another? Granted, it might be entertaining, but really it’s bullying. No wonder our society has a bullying problem. When I vote, I vote for those candidates that reflect my values, but even more because they’ve explained what they will do to make their country better.
Canada is not immune to such antics. During the last 2015 Federal Election in Canada, the then reigning Conservative government placed ads in local newspapers and flyers, questioning whether Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current Prime Minister, shares their values. The ads tried to foster fear that a Liberal government would legalize marijuana, “making access easier for kids.” The ad warns there would be legal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods and that prostitution would be legalized, “putting brothels in our communities.” The Conservative Party attack ad finishes with, “Those aren’t our values either. Vote for your values.” They were twisting the truth. Mr. Trudeau did make a campaign promise to legalize marijuana, but he never explicitly said he would legalize prostitution or drug injection sites. That was only Conservative fear mongering.
Of course there was the long running television ads attacking Mr. Trudeau’s credibility saying, “He’s just not ready” to be prime minister. The Liberal Party of Canada is also guilty of attack ads. In 2006 then Liberal Party Leader Paul Martin approved a controversial ad suggesting the Tories would post armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities. During the last weeks of the campaign, the Liberals resorted to negative ads directed towards the Conservative party, attempting to depict its leader Stephen Harper as an extreme right-wing politician. The most controversial ad said, “Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada.”
Historically, one that stands out for me was the 1993 Progressive Conservative Party attack on then Liberal leader Jean Chretien, who was elected as Prime Minister that year. The ad showed a picture (on left) of Mr. Chretien saying,”Is this a Prime Minister?” This ad was interpreted as mocking Chretien’s slight deformity and speech impediment that were leftover from a childhood case of Bell’s Palsy. This is a condition where paralysis of the facial nerves occur, causing muscular weakness in one side of the face. To me, that was a “low blow.” That was “hitting below the belt.”
Why does politics have to be about attacking another’s character? Most people I have talked to express how repugnant this type of politicking is. I’m grateful that Canada’s present Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, did not run any attack ads during the 2015 election and does not resort to bullying to achieve his goals. In fact, in October of 2015 on CTV’s Canada AM Mr. Trudeau said,“I don’t believe in attack ads. I think they hurt your ability to govern and my capacity to stay positive and focused on our platform.” I say kudos to Canada’s Prime Minister. It is time to get back to what I call honourable politicking, where politicians put forth their platforms for making their country great. It’s time to bring honour and respect back to politics. Time to give us politicians who have creative new ideas, who aren’t bullies, and who want to lead because they want to make a difference in this world. It is a sad state of affairs when the only potential leaders that step forward are bullies who attack their opponents. Enough already!