I’m the kind of person that enjoys true crime re-enactments so it should come as no surprise that I am also enjoying the US impeachment hearings. I’m lapping it up. I can have that channel on while I’m pottering about the house, doing crafts, reading, or replying to emails, and I can still follow along. I’ve become so attuned to the pace of the dialogue that I can instantly tell what are the real zingers and the things I know will be chosen as clips and rebroadcast on television. My Spidey sense is almost perfect.
At the same time, though, I’m following along with a political disaster in my home province of Alberta. Collectively, we recently made the mistake of electing a right-wingnut as premier and he is going about doing the exact opposite of all the things he campaigned on. He said he was going to create jobs, build pipelines to get the oil out of the province, and accelerate the economy. What he gave us were job losses (teachers, police, nurses, etc.), an increased deficit, and a bizarre plan (called, without irony, Wexit) to separate Alberta and Saskatchewan from the rest of Canada.
As if that weren’t enough, the country of my birth, the United Kingdom, is in the throes of an election campaign that gives no-one any good choices. The citizens can vote for the pro-Brexit party knowing that it is run by stumblebums who are entertaining but useless. Or, they can vote for the party that is waffling on Brexit but may give them another referendum. Or, they can vote for the pro-Remain party that has absolutely no other policy proposals.
How did we all become so stuck in political quagmires? It has something to do with the information bubbles that we all live in, and it has something to do with Russian interference, and it has something to do with our collective gullibility but in the end, we are all victims of information overload.
Most of us are so busy living our lives, going to work, and raising children that we don’t have a lot of time to attend to the minutiae of political manoeuvring. When we check in with our favourite TV news show or newspaper, we notice the highlights of the day. When we go online, our social networking tends to be dominated by people who agree with us. When we talk to our neighbours, we are often reduced to short pleasantries and looking at whatever is written on their hats. We don’t have the time to engage in debate with people who have disparate opinions. It is all too much.
As horrified as I am by the charlatans who are in high political office in all three places, I still have faith in democracy. What is becoming apparent, though, is that our increased pace of information flow has rendered the four- or five-year election pattern redundant. We are moving way too fast these days. When we accidentally elect an idiot, or a criminal, or a pompous ass, we need to be able to un-elect them much faster.
We can protest, and march, and chant to our hearts’ content, but these rarely make a difference. The good people of Hong Kong have been protesting in their thousands for months so that I now doubt the value of protesting. There has to be another way. In Canada, we were promised electoral reform two elections ago and I’m still waiting, so that’s not it either.
My proposal is simple. Naïve, but simple. It should be easier to prove that an elected official lied during their election campaign. If what they are doing is not what they promised, they are out. Boom. Done. No impeachment proceedings. No hand-wringing. Just line up what they promised next to what they are doing, and let a judge decide. It doesn’t even have to be a supreme court. A family court judge or a civil court judge will do. They are pretty good at deciding who is genuine.
Part B of my proposal is that, when political candidates give us their pitch, they must also give us their CV’s. Whenever I have been on hiring committees, I have always paid closer attention to a candidate’s past experience and training than I have to what they say they plan to do. I see no reason to do anything different with my elected representatives.
What do you think? Are you with me? Let’s increase our demands of them as candidates. Then, let’s make them live up to their promises. We can make allowances for fluctuations in contexts, but outright lies will see them kicked to the curb. Yes, I like that idea.