The Velveteen Politician

Preamble

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my all-time favourite stories as a child. Click on the link if you’ve never read the story (or want to read again!)

Election Canada

About a week ago Canada held another election. Unlike the US, elections here aren’t held on a predetermined schedule. They must happen every four years but can be called earlier if the current party in power loses a no confidence motion. Over the last several weeks local, municipal candidates have been attempting to convince us that they have the best ideas for our future. Several local candidates have dropped off shiny brochures at my apartment fill with glowingly vague recommendations from their business and public service associates. At the end of the brochure I’ve learned only two concrete things about each candidate: the address of his or her election website and for which office or ward he or she is campaigning.

Everything else is buzzwords and praise that could, in many cases, just as easily be applied to you or me.

Like politicians everywhere, our politicians excel at making themselves look good and telling us what (they think) we want to hear. Canadian politics tend to be less bloodthirsty than the three-ring circus that comes to town in the US, but we still have our share of shady deals, broken promises and government officials who do foolish things.

Every election I look for the velveteen politicians – that is, people who are real. With rare exceptions, velveteen people seem to stay far, far away from politics. This is a real shame.

Elected officials, of course, cannot become close, personal friends with every single one of their constituents. To argue otherwise would dull the definition of friend in the first place. There’s something strange about the ways in which many of the men and women in politics present their personal and professional lives, though, as if the only way to be accepted as a leader is if they maintain the illusion of everything’s fine even when it isn’t.

Imagine

What would local, state/provincial, and national politics look like if the people running for office were able to reveal their true selves, if they weren’t afraid to mention past mistakes and regrets, areas of running a government in which they don’t have much experience, or even the parts of their lives that politicians (especially in the US) often  sweep under the rug or bury in the backyard?

Would this newfound honesty bleed over into how they presented their views? Could we finally get rid of doublespeak/euphemisms like family values, support the troops, or economic uncertainty? Do you think that they would become more comfortable stepping outside of cotton-candy promises and begin sharing concrete ideas for how they want to change the landscape of their communities?


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0 Responses to The Velveteen Politician

  1. Velveteen Rabbit has always been a favorite of mine. For my niece’s birthday one year, I gave her the book along with a handmade ‘velveteen rabbit’ made from fabric that was once a dress of her great grandmother’s!

    As for the rest of your article…you are living in a dream world if you think this is possible. LOL
    The last few months here in the U.S. have been incredibly charged with innuendos, accusations, and full-out three-ring circus as our politicians presented their case in the hopes of being elected yesterday. Every day for the past couple of weeks we received at least 5 very large postcard type solicitations from different politicians. My comment was ‘why not take the money you use for these uselss fliers and feed the poor’. Nothing irritates me more than hearing how much is spent to assure our vote.
    Wouldn’t it be SO easy to make a confident vote if we actually ‘knew’ who these people are? It takes a lot of time investigating their backgrounds and voting records to make an educated vote. It is sometimes disheartening.

    • I know where you’re coming from, Teresa. US politics are seriously insane.

      It was a real shock to move up here and see how different the US and Canada are in this regard. Part of it, I’m sure, is due to me living in a big city. It’s more difficult to run on a platform of prejudice or discrimination when half of the people who live here are immigrants, almost half are visible minorities, only about half of the people identify as Christian (and 1/6 are non-religious), and we have a fairly large GLBT community.

      Toronto is not a utopia, of course, but it was amazing for me to move up here and witness entire elections whoosh by without any of the candidates making disparaging remarks about the religious beliefs, sexual orientation or ethnic background of anyone else in the race. It still happens every so often, of course, but generally only by the most conservative and controversial candidates from what I’ve seen. I never could have imagined such a thing until I saw it unfold for myself. It’s all so weird.

      It also makes me think: if candidates can have an election without using these things to build up their own campaign or tear down someone else’s campaign…what else is possible?

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