By Jay Menard,
“It’s not the band I hate. It’s their fans.” Yes, I am gearing myself up for Sloan’s appearance this weekend at the Western Fair’s Beer & BBQ Show, but that’s beside the point.
That lyric also perfectly sums up the way I feel about some of the participants in our municipal campaigns. And the danger for the candidates is that they’re going to suffer from guilt by association.
London, especially on Twitter and other social networks including our local paper’s comments section, is easily likened to a playground. Whether it’s puerile name calling or taking their figurative ball and going home when they don’t get their way, we see a lot of the worst in discourse.
I had hoped during a municipal campaign things would change, but I haven’t seen it yet.
It isn’t a left or right issue; it isn’t about one person or one group of people. Across the entire political spectrum we’re seeing people who are publicly supporting candidates posting insults, making snide comments, and casting aspersions about everything from the opponent’s intelligence to the quality of their character.
But isn’t that what we’ve got in council now? How is this making it better?
How am I to believe that the next council will be any less divisive, ineffective, or immature when much of what I’m seeing is the same sort of behaviour? How am I to believe that Candidate X will be able to work with a potential future colleague when the backers have spent copious amounts of campaign time disrespecting that person.
I get it — you may not like a candidate, but remember that they may be a fellow council member in the future. And if you’re fighting for a better future, why use tactics that have established the status quo?
But isn’t “for” the key word? Wouldn’t it be great if campaigns focused on the “for” and not the “against?” Instead of focusing on why I should vote against someone, perhaps focus on why I should vote for your candidate.
And, most of all, remember the old adage “if you lie with the dogs, you get up with fleas.” Your candidate may not be saying these things, but they are definitely tainted by negative behaviour. People notice. I’m not the only one — trust me.
This issue has been bothering me for a while and I addressed it personally with a candidate I both respect and am considering voting for. But I asked this candidate directly, “How can I be sure that you’re not going to behave the same way that your supporters do?”
To be honest, I didn’t get answer that alleviated my concerns, but I got an OK response. It’s true, you can’t pick who your supporters are, nor can you pick who your most vocal proponents are. As a voter, it’s up to me to weigh all the evidence.
I will tell you, though, that — personally — the behaviour of the people with whom you surround yourself carries a lot of weight. I find it hard to believe that the most vocal supporters aren’t going to have an influence. I have a hard time believing that like doesn’t attract like. And I have a hard time believing that leopards will change their spots once they’re the kings of the jungles.
(I also have a hard time believing that I forced that last broken metaphor so much…)
In the end, candidates have to set an example for themselves and hope that their supporters understand that politics isn’t a playground game. There should be no room for name-calling, insinuations, and snarky comments made through back-channels.
If you believe in someone, convince me why I should believe in them as well. Don’t mock others; uplift your own.
After all, council shouldn’t be a playground. And if you’re going to argue that the current iteration is flea-ridden, perhaps it’s best not to roll around with the dogs if you want to change it for the future.