First off, an apology: I walked in wearing sunglasses last night, and kept them on for a good part of the event. While I recognize this is a douchey thing to do, they are prescription sunglasses. My normal prescription glasses are broken at the moment, hence the need for wearing my sunglasses indoors.
Yesterday’s Pints & Politics was a great affair. While, clearly, there was no consensus made about how to “pull together,” a good discussion got started and, at the very least, we identified some barriers that cause people not to get involved, among them:
- Political parties themselves
- How the most engaged members, and even elected leaders, representing political parties behave
- A lack of understanding about civics among the populace
- A lack of accountability for most elected positions
- Facing the wrath of your party should you vote against party policy
These are the types of things preventing people from getting engaged in the first place. It’s not that the party faithful are necessarily part of the problem, but their fervent belief in everything their party does certainly turns many people off. Which leads to what, for me, is one of the biggest problems preventing people from working together: ideology. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go on and on about it again. Simply put: if you go into an argument believing what you believe, and going in “for the win,” you’ve already lost.
All that said, I came of PnP with a few ideas that would help make it easier for citizens to feel like they can, and should get involved, which I feel is the first step to solving the problem. Among them:
- Ban negative advertising
- Yes, ban it. No more. It’s not necessary, and it doesn’t answer the questions the electorate has. Not to mention that the majority of it borders on slander.
- Stop grouping MPs/MPPs/MLAs along party lines in chamber.
- This is a symbolic gesture, but it could help dialogue among those in power.
- Bring in the ability to have a recall.
- We have seen this play out in California several times, notably in the election that brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. We can make the barrier high enough so that the privilege isn’t abused, but it brings in a measure of accountability.
- Proportional representation.
- Whether it’s ranked balloting, my proposal for reforming the Senate, or something else, that’s fine. But the will of the people needs to be better represented at election time than it is now.
- Better education for citizens about how government works.
- Plain and simple. There are some local initiatives working on this now, but it really needs to be part of schooling. Kids must be taught how government works, how it got that way, how to get and stay involved, etc. at an early age.
- Ban corporate and union donations.
- I know a lot of people will be up in arms about this one, but corporate and union donations imply that everyone who works for a corporation, or is represented by a union, believes that X Party represents their best interests. That’s rarely true, so we need to let citizens decide for themselves who to donate to, if they choose to donate at all.
Those are some ideas I’ve had before, and were reinforced last night. What do you think? What types of things should be changed so that the average person feels they can get involved in politics, even if it just means increasing the number of people that vote?