Much Ado About Nothing


 

The recall of Gavin Newsom as California governor failed. This is disappointing but not surprising; it would have been revolutionary had he been removed, and Larry Elder made governor. But this does mean that a huge amount of money was spent, and the business of government interrupted, for no result.

Now the same thing is likely to happen in Canada. The probable outcome of the current federal election is a Liberal minority government, just as existed before the unnecessary election. A great deal of money spent, and the business of government suspended, to produce no change.

Even if the Canadian government is replaced by the Conservatives, it will not matter much; the Liberals and Conservatives are running on similar platforms, supporting the same things, differing only in detail.

One can expend a great deal of effort on democratic politics, and achieve nothing. It is useful for preventing the government from ignoring the interests of the people, and it is useful for managing the orderly succession in power, and giving the government legitimacy, but not for much else; not, despite our illusions, for making major changes in public policy. Politicians are almost always chiefly in the business of gaining and holding office. So they look at the opinion polls, and craft policies to attract majority support. So long as they do this, it makes little difference whether Party A or Party B is in power. Both main parties will run on more or less the same platform. Erin O’Toole’s current campaign is a case in point. 

Smaller parties, who have no chance of government, will instead stake out a distinct minority position, to appeal to some portion of the electorate that has strong feelings. This will be enough to get a few candidates elected; but not to get anything done, because they will never form a government. If they get close to taking power, they shift to seeking the majority position. We saw this when the NDP challenged for power in 2015: Mulcair actually moved to the right of the liberals.

All of this means that except for the occasional fluke, little gets done by electoral politics. It only reflects the culture.

The place where policies are forged is in the media. 



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