Selling, Competing, or Serving?

The great thing about living in the era of social media is that political conversations no longer need to be one way.  You can reach out to candidates through Twitter and enter into a productive discussion about policies and experience.

Of course, this relies on the candidates actually replying, as opposed to simply treating Twitter as yet another ‘push’ channel.  No one replied to me, so I’ll have to talk about something else.

Specifically, the ways that we misconstrue elections.  I have this strange ideal that elections are an opportunity for the citizenry of the province to have a serious discussion about our common goals, and the ways in which we intend to reach them.  I like the metaphor of a conversation.   However, there are two other metaphors that seem far more prevalent.

Firstly, the metaphor of sports.  Some people support their party with the same fervour that they support their local sports team.  The fact that the Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in nearly half a century doesn’t deter thousands of people from supporting them, cheering for them, and avidly following them.  Real fans are emotionally attached to their team, regardless of their actual performance.   The way we identify with sports team is a strange phenomenon.  None of the Toronto Blue Jays are from Toronto, or even from Ontario.  And in the same way that we root for our sports team to win, we root for our favourite politicians to win.  Predictably, immediately after the debates last night, there were claims that this or that candidate had ‘won’.

The other metaphor that is common is that of sales.

Candidates and parties are advertised and sold.  And that would only make sense if we thought of voters as consumers.   But I am a citizen, not a consumer.  I don’t want to buy something from the candidates.  I want them to represent me and my fellow Ontarians.   As I’ve said before – an election is like a job interview.  I don’t want the candidates commercials, I want their resumé.

Tell me what you’ve done.  Don’t make empty promises about the future.  Show me that you’re already working to improve the lives and the environment of people in this province.   And then maybe I’ll consider voting for you.

Oh, and replying to my tweets would be nice, too.  Let’s actually have a conversation!