I have always been an obsessive, or borderline lunatic depending on who you ask, sports fan. I’m competitive by nature so I’m sure that’s part of the appeal to me. There is also a sense of camaraderie inherent to sports I enjoy. A feeling among both teammates and fans we are all in this together. Us against the most dreaded of opponents, them.
I hate the Montreal Canadiens, simply because that’s who they are. I can hate the other side for no other reason but being the other side because it is in the context of a game. A game which has no real bearing on anything important to society as a whole. Politics on the other hand directly affects people’s lives.
Divisive hyperbole has been as much a hallmark of Rob Ford’s time in office as his scandals, lies, and ability to embarrass our city. Urban planning he disagrees with is “war on the car”. The democratic removal of his authority is likened to Iraq’s armed invasion of Kuwait. Ford is an ignorant, crass, bully so his scorched earth approach to those he disagrees with is understandable. When your BFF is a drug dealer presently charged with extortion, nuanced debate is not likely to be your forte.
That’s why it is so disappointing to hear such extreme language from other candidates in the mayoral race. Karen Stintz’s campaign said Olivia Chow has declared “war on the taxpayer”. For starters, Stintz is as responsible for a 30 year billion dollar tax hike as Ford is. Never mind that though, let’s consider her comparison.
Has Chow’s campaign signed an open declaration of this war? Is there a draft for eligible soldiers or an estimate on casualties? Even if Chow proposed an immediate tax hike of 30% to fund an ongoing study for an all raccoon production of Hamlet, would anyone die? Of course not, it is simply the same “us versus them” mentality Ford Nation feeds on.
Case in point, when I tweeted her “war on taxpayers” line was reminiscent of Ford one of her supporters assumed it was because I was on Olivia’s team. “Disagrees with Karen?!? Must be an Oliviaite!! Man the barricades!!”
I’ve been abundantly clear about my support for David Soknacki including in my Twitter bio. Why debate my opinion though when you can dismiss it as belonging to one of “them”?
We live in a hyper media age where simplifying a message is necessary for it to reach voters. Prime Minister Harper’s former Communications Director wrote an interesting piece on the effect this has on political reporting. I’d largely agree spin and talking points are being offered up as news in sacrifice to the never ending news cycle. Candidates and their campaigns still determine what those talking points are though.
Candidates should be able to debate opponents without invoking the image of armed hostilities. War is violent armed conflict resulting in death, destruction, chaos and suffering. To the best of my knowledge it has never happened over a subway line. Candidates should use this election to raise the level of debate so when we leave behind Rob Ford in October, we can do so without resorting to his politics.