Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The end of party politics as we know it?

Today, some thoughts about idea bundling ---"the lumping together of unrelated causes," in the words of Jesse Brown on the June 16 Search Engine podcast.

Political parties take this to an extreme. If you're an NDP'er, you're assumed to want gun control, bicycle lanes, control of rents and gasoline prices, the end of the seal hunt, Canadian troops out of Afghanistan, a resurgence of the labour movement, increased levels of social services, single-tier healthcare, and public ownership of institutions.

Conservatives are expected to resist gun control, unwaveringly support the police, oppose abortion, support the war in Afghanistan, want lower taxes and smaller government, believe in God, be pro-business, believe that the market will solve most problems, and see the welfare rolls as a hideout for the lazy.

It's a complex world. Sometimes the components of such a bundle are inconsistent with each other. For example, defending the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan vs. abandonment by our military; supporting public service unions right to strike vs. interrupting important social services; resisting gun registration vs. reducing gun-related crime.

Few of us can accept the entire litany of either the right or the left, preferring a cafeteria approach where we choose values and beliefs that feel comfortable on a personal level. One can only speculate about what this means for the future of party politics. Some see proportional representation as a partial solution. Would this lead to a tsunami of narrow-agenda mini-parties? Would that be a bad thing?

It seems clear that something has to change. Brown notes the public's waning interest in voting and politics in general. Younger people are particularly disconnected from the political process, preferring to bring about change by supporting causes, volunteering, and so on.

Perhaps this is the generation that will force us to find a way.

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