Partisan politics continues to disappoint. Regardless of which party is elected, promises are broken. When decisions are made they are usually incremental. Never going as deep and substantive as promised. Even when bold decisions are made, bold implementation remains elusive.
There are many reasons for the limited capacity of governments to tackle tough issues with resolve. Here are some. The job of politicians is tougher than you think. Political ‘realities’ are a fact of life and would challenge the very best of us. The quality of political leadership, like every profession, is uneven. On top of that, government institutions were designed to preserve the status quo. Sometimes that’s a curse, sometimes a blessing.
Another reason is the lack of a firm consensus from the electorate. Without it tradeoffs, contradictory policies and partisan calculation flourish.
Governments perform necessary functions. But they do not have a monopoly on achieving or interpreting consensus.
That task is better suited to civil society.
Citizens and their groups know each other as friends, family, neighbours. They know each other’s caring capacity, desires, worries and limitations. They are uniquely positioned to make political love. They can for example:
- Focus beyond electoral cycles and disregard the imperative to win the next election
- Engage with people regardless of who they voted for and what their stated beliefs are
- Sort out conflicts, grievances, divides and disagreements outside the partisan political box. Here are three citizen-led examples, Ethelo Demorcacy, MASS LBP, and Energy Futures Lab.
- Reward elected officials for seeking common ground
- Surround partisan nastiness with love.
Making political love is critical to political decision making. It mobilizes popular support. It comes before political boldness. It is an antidote to resignation, cynicism and competing choruses of righteousness.
This is not an argument to stop participating in the partisan political process. Instead, I invite you to consider approaching politics as a lover. It’s harder and much more challenging work. And essential for refreshing our democracy.
Non state organizations often have the imagination which the world needs, but only states and governments have the mandate and power to change laws and regulations and obligations. ~ Joe Clark, former PM
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