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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good Governance or Bad Politics? Which is This Alberta?

We have to accept that democracy is a messy business but politics is worse.  The cynic says democracy is the worst system of governance except for all the others.  Is that because it is adversarial and based on debate and disagreement instead of conversation, compromise and accommodation?.  You can differ and disagree and that is a good thing so long as you are not just being disagreeable.

That is where politics comes in.  Politics has turned into a marketing game that is more about being disagreeable just to win a game than it is about finding the best way to serve the needs of people and advance a greater good.

In a democracy politicians and policy makers have to consider everyone and then make a decision for the greater good based on evidence, analysis, intent, accommodation, fairness, integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability, stewardship, fiscal responsibility and the greater good. Just to name a few. This is the stuff of good governance.

The metaphorical job of such a person (a.k.a. politician) means you have to keep your feet on the ground, your eye on the ball, your shoulder to the wheel, your head on straight then do it with your back against the wall and without a net to catch you if you fall or fail.  There is no training program or operators manual for the job of governance.  The talents it takes to get the job are entirely different than the skills necessary to do the job.

Politics on the other hand is all about the game of pursuing political power.  It is about seeking, getting and sustaining power over peoples lives.  Spin, packaging, tactics, mean-spirited misleading messaging, intimidation, bullying and manipulation to win at all costs is politics at its worst.  The worst is becoming the norm.

Good governance is always good politics.  The reverse is almost never the case, with rare exceptions.  This reality turns off good citizens from participating in power politics as it is practised in too many situations these days.  It is not always the fault of the politicians.  We the people let it happen, the media loves the "news" story of conflicts - real or artificial, and the red-meat back room political power brokers  think it is just sport.  Citizens turn off and democracy suffers.

Here is a link to one blogger's point of view on an event that may be governance or politics but his accusations do not suggest anything good is going on here, in terms of governance or politics.  I give you this link not to criticize the Wildrose Alliance Party per se.  This stuff goes on all the time in all the old-style political parties.  However when you claim to be better than the next guy you can't let this kind of public accusation of an internal misuse or abuse of process and power go on without challenge.  That is the responsibility for the leadership of any political party.

Sometimes the facts are right and the interpretation is wrong.  Sometimes the interpretation is right but all the facts are not there.  You get my drift.  It's complicated.  The larger point is if there are going to be a better political alternative they must at least meet the minimal ethical test of aligning with the values of the majority of Albertans. If their own members don't think that alignment is the case, why would anyone else presume they are a viable alternative?  That is the job of political leadership. The serious accusations by this blogger/member must be dealt with openly and according to the ethical values of Albertan if we are to trust and respect this party as a viable political alternative.

George Lakoff says all politics is about morality.  Nobody goes into politics to do bad things. Hitler and Mussolini both were elected in democratic processes - and did bad things.  That was the fault of the German and Italian electorate at the time.  They needed to use there collective wisdom to stop these tyrants.  Instead they were ruled by collective ignorance.  The rest of the story is a sad and sordid history for mankind to regret, remember and never repeat.

I am not saying that is what is going on here but I am saying citizens of Alberta better be vigilant and suspicious about the qualities, characters and capacities of who we elect.  We have to apply this test of suitability to govern regardless of political affiliation.  The consequences of making a mistake will affect the well-being of everyone.  It happens and it is our fault as citizens if when we let it happen because.  It happens when we think politics is not our business.  Politics and governance is the core business of citizenship.  Deal with it Alberta and deal with it by using you values and ethics to test the alternatives.