As I watched Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duke it out in the United States, I found I was getting more and more jealous of our American neighbours.
Their political campaigns are much more exciting than ours.
Theirs is a campaign of ideas and passion; ours is of the great struggle for the middle where we know that the government will always be (regardless of what they call themselves) small “c” conservative and the opposition will always be small “l” liberal.
They call it campaigning from the left and leading from the right.
The difference really is a creature of the differences between our systems. We have prime ministers who are chosen by their own party. The Americans have presidents who are elected by the people.
See? Right away we have one layer of detachment with our leaders.
Our prime ministers attain power by proving themselves to be the lesser of evils and less likely to rock the boat. American presidents attain power by proving themselves to be the most dynamic and skillful in the art of public persuasion; the one who can offer “change”.
Once elected, who has the better form of government? Well, our home and native land does. Our prime ministers have more clout and can get more done. Presidents have to deal with the checks and balances put in place by skittish settlers of 250 years ago who had barely survived other governments’ abuses.
So, we have more exciting governance, but the Americans have more exciting elections … and longer, too.
This has been a round about way of introducing my real point: I would hate to be a politician in Canada.
How many of our citizens are equipped for the gruelling campaigns and “gotcha politics”? Just as many of us think we are smart enough to win Survivor, we figure our politicians should be smarter and sexier than the other person or, at the very least, us.
Once they get to the territorial or federal legislature, politicians realize there is a huge disconnect between what the people expect of them and what they really can do.
You see, many people think we have a democracy. We don’t. We have a republic. We elect people to make decisions on our behalf.
Our representatives collect all the information, examine the data and weigh it against the interests of everyone else … and then make a decision. For the most part, this is information the public does not have the wherewithal to collect nor the time to read.
It is a good system and, yet, people get upset with their local politician for not voting the way they want them to. What they don’t realize is that these politicians likely represented their constituents’ opinions very well in caucus. But, in the end, the majority rules and they vote as a block.
For a diverse country like ours, it is the best system of representation without the scourge of the “tyranny of the masses”.
But, as I return to my point, it is a situation in which politicians cannot keep everyone happy.
And it is a situation that provides the least entertaining races. Whereas a presidential candidate can say, “I will pull our troops from Iraq,” our politicians can only say, “I will voice your divergent opinions in caucus and then vote for the decision made by our party.”
An election is the toughest job interview for the worst job imaginable. It is amazing that our potholes get fixed at all.