In today's Toronto Star, Travers came out with an insightful and honest piece (link to come). The gist is that the during last year's federal election the media failed to do their job and ask real questions of our politicians. Rather the media was obsessed with things such as personality and issues that had little substance. In otherwords, the inane.
The election ultimately turned out to be a circus of sorts. And this likely played a large role as to why we had the worse voter turnout in history. And many of those that voted likely had did so without ever being fully informed.
Travers' piece made think about something that my Poli-Sci 101 professor stressed once. He argued that political parties in general, though more likely conservative parties, would rather fight elections on the unsubstantial topics. The thinking is that if you can bog down the electorate on issues that seem trivial and partisan, rather than addressing real issues, voters will become jaded and are less likely to vote. And one of the strategies is to use the media to achieve this objective.
My professor expressed this back in 1999, which puts him ahead of GWB or Harper. Cheney and GWB used this strategy almost perfectly and one can argue that Harper was partially successful with his attacks on Dion and such. That's not to say they were the only parties or leaders to try this as Paul Martin and John Tory also attempted campaigns on anything but the issues.
The strategy holds sway with the right in particular because their ideology doesn't generally have a broad appeal in developed societies. Being honest with the electorate is more likely to be detrimental to their cause. However, where right wing parties lack in broad appeal they partially make up with deep appeal. That is, conservative leaning citizens are easier to motivate to vote than non-conservative citizens, even though they are much larger in numbers. And fewer voters means a government feels that they owe less or are accountable to fewer people.
Travers' column will hopefully be taken to heart by those in the media. While we all need to do a better job in holding our politicians accountable, our media definitely need to turn it around. The media have access to our politicians - good or bad they are on the front lines, especially during elections. They are the first in line to ask questions and point out the issues. If they aren't doing their jobs then they are no better than those politicians that would look to be elected without ever being accountable to the public.
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