Sunday, October 9, 2011

Talking Turnout on Thanksgiving

Here at A Guy Watching Politics, I still cling to the belief that possibly, perhaps, if there is nothing else to do, there are some people out there reading this blog. What can I say? I am a glass half-full kind of blogger...

With that in mind, I am putting out this open question and asking for your views:

Why is voter turnout so low?

Of course there is no single reason, so let me start the discussion with some observations based on a conversation I had on-line earlier today.

We are trapped in a vicious cycle; a dangerous chicken and egg scenario in which politicians are failing to offer us real choices and thoughtful options, and where we are disconnected from our politics and complacent about the challenges our society is facing.

The result? We only superficially (if at all) see the real challenges and opportunities we face raised during elections. And no one offers more because we do not demand it.

In good times, this would be disappointing and frustrating. Today it can be dangerous. The interest to engage and the willingness to present real policy options are "muscles" that need to be consistently worked and exercised.

My concern is that as move through what promises to be a very tumultuous period, we will do from a position of weakness. We have switched off from politics at the very time our presence is needed. And our political parties have failed to put real (and possibly difficult) choices on the table at the very time we need to think differently.

- We have allowed ourselves to be governed with an eye to the election around the corner, elevating short-term electoral considerations at the expense of long-term policy debate.

- We have allowed real policy options like tax increases or spending cuts to be stigmatized, and as a result further polarized our politics into "us versus them" camps.

What are we going to do about it? The responsibility for arresting this slide rests with all of us. Politicians, the bureaucracy, the media and the public all have a role to play in changing how Canadians engage.

Electoral reform and greater use of technology or social media are important. But before we get wrapped up in changing how we vote, perhaps we should take a step back and ask ourselves how we can give greater visibility to the issues on which we should be voting.


So, over to you reader(s). What do you think about the state of our engagement? Why is turnout so low, and what can we do about it? Share your views; let's talk turnout.

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