Partisan Politics: A Disintegrating System?

With the recent provincial elections here in BC, I feel it would timely to share a few of my thoughts on the political system and processes that are currently in place. During election time, you often hear people excitedly sharing their opinions on their favoured political party, and when people ask me, my usual response is “I don’t participate in partisan politics.” Sometimes I receive a strange look, as if they’re thinking, ‘He doesn’t care about current affairs,’ or simply, “Oh that’s interesting.” However, there is more to it than political apathy, and I thought this would be a good space to share why I don’t participate in partisan politics with the hope of contributing to a discourse that aims to de-normalize our current political system, and set in place systems that contribute to the advancement of our society.

As alluded to in my previous post, our current political system is set up as a competition: which party can best convince the public that they are the best candidate? Inevitably – and the recent elections are a prime example – it becomes a contest of campaigning, where political candidates are dependent on funding to participate in an election. This becomes problematic for many reasons, not the least, the voices of those without political, social, and economic capital are subordinated, and people are left to choose from a handful of parties that may or may not reflect the values they hope to see in a government.

Further, partisanship creates polarity around social and environmental issues. Issues are often reduced into two distinct, mutually exclusive, stereotyped camps, which pit the views that allegedly represent one camp against the views of the other. Discussions around pressing issues degenerate into an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality, rather than principled deliberation on the issue and its deeper implications. This sentiment becomes glaringly manifest in political attack ads. In their efforts to ‘defeat’ their opponents and ‘win’ a campaign, politicians engage in antagonistic exchanges, often characterized by expressions of overt hostility, as demonstrated by the mud-slinging and negative advertising that has come to dominate many modern campaigns.

There are may other fundamental inadequacies of the current political system, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Western liberal democracy is seen as the acme of political systems to which a nation can aspire, and it has come to a point where it is being repackaged and exported, and often imposed upon other nations. However, it would do us well to question the legitimacy and usefulness of, what I would call, a competitive democracy. In order to have a government that truly serves the best interests of the public, I suggest there needs to be a complete overhaul of our political system, not merely ‘campaign finance capping’ or adjustments to the election process.

For example, is it inconceivable to have a political system free of parties and campaigning, where the electorate vote for an individual’s capacity to serve in a political position? A plurality of votes would elect the individual most renowned for their mature experience, established service, and achievements on behalf of public welfare. Further, any person or group operating in a way appearing to constitute overt campaigning can be disqualified from the electoral process. Without need to generate funding for costly campaigns, candidates will be free of lobbyists and donations from special interests. Free from partisan affiliations, government representatives will vote on all issues according only to principles of selfless and academically-informed considerations of public welfare.

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