Thursday, May 12, 2005

But how on earth can someone even half as civilized and nice as you, be part of such a self-destructive point of view?

I always enjoy Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae's man-on-the-street stories (as after last year's election) regarding party preference; they're wonderfully informative on what normal, non-news-junkie, non-politically obsessive people think, which is probably good to know. The results continue to be just a wee bit infuriating. John Lewin says Adscam is no big deal to him. And if his views are that of the average, ordinary Ontario voter, the Conservatives can forget about forming a majority government in the next election, even a minority. "There's no way I would not vote Liberal," says John Lewin. With all the Gomery inquiry detritus stinking the Liberals to high heaven, I set out yesterday asking myself why any average, ordinary Canadian with a residue of intelligence would want to put the Liberals back in power, especially in Ontario where voters did exactly that in 2004, the Martinites' 75 seats -- to the Conservatives' 24 and the NDP's seven -- that swung the Grit victory. This, despite Adscam sewage already out there for the voters to hold their noses against. John Lewin represents those Ontario voters who didn't feel it at all necessary to hold their noses, nor will he this time. John Lewin is Mr. Average, an ordinary Ontario voter. He is 75, a retired Toronto streetcar operator, in the capital to visit his daughter. John Lewin has never missed voting in a federal election. "I'm proud of that." So he should be. Exercising his democratic right to vote, that is, if not its target. He and the other mere 61% of eligible Canadians who cast ballots in 2004. That's no number to be proud of. Those who also shouldn't be proud are the pathetically high 39% who didn't give a damn about showing up at the polls, and, worse, the 75% between the ages 18 and 25 who didn't. [...] John Lewin, sitting in the Carlingwood Mall food court with his daughter Glenda: "I'm voting Liberal again because this scandal stuff doesn't touch me personally. It's over my head. I don't understand half of it, it's too complex. Quite frankly, I'm bored hearing about it." So, what would make you vote against the Liberals? "Like I said, something really bad that affects me in my everyday life. This ad scandal isn't it. It's mainly the press whipping up a frenzy. We've done well under the Liberal government. Our economy is good. It's just a few bad apples in the party, not the government itself. This isn't Chretien's government, it's Martin's. He's a good, decent man who'll make sure we have honesty. "What would it take? Gas prices. If it could be proven, for example, that the reason gas prices are so ridiculously high is because the government's doing something corrupt, then I'd vote against them. So would most Canadians because gas prices hit where it hurts all of us. Or, if they messed around with the old-age pension. That stuff we can feel. We can't feel the ad scandal. It doesn't hit home." People like Mr. Lewin make me cry. How can you be proud of having never missed voting in a federal election, if you can't be bothered to take the time to understand why the Liberals might not deserve your vote by default? Is it possible to be any more relentlessly oblivious to the big picture, or more shamelessly self-interested? He can't be bothered about endemic, institutional scandal in the Liberal Party, because it's just not that clear how it affects him personally. (How about that those stolen federal funds could otherwise have been spent on, say, tax cuts? Health care? Our rapidly-decaying military? Name your social program, federal agency, or subsidy of choice, and the Liberals have enriched themselves, at the cost of it.) I hope Lewin is an isolated case. I mean, Jeebus; I'm trying really hard not to fall into the trap of being the bitter, hyperbolic opposition railing against the 'sheep,' or some such thing - that's been proven electoral poison - but can that really be how any sizable number of Canadians think? As long as the government's not transparently conspiring to cause him obvious personal financial harm, anything goes? For that matter, he's one to talk about the "press whipping up a frenzy" - gas prices are remarkably reasonable when adjusted for inflation; the perception that they're "ridiculously high" is a creation of that same media, who know an easy story to lead the six o'clock news on a slow day when they see it. I have a terrible feeling that self-absorbed ignorance is going to continue being an appealing option for many Ontarians. Is there even any way to deal with such complacency, beyond sure-loser "You're not as happy as you think you are" stumping?

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