The town hall debate on Sunday night was a spectacle, and while it would give me great satisfaction to recount and analyze everything that happened, it wouldn’t do any good. Hundreds of commentators have given their take and spin, and chances are if you saw even a few clips you have already made up your mind. I think the bigger issue to address is the rhetoric that has engulfed not only the American election but politics in general.
I don’t want to preach, and honestly I wouldn’t have any solid ground to build a pulpit. I talk more than I act, am less informed than I wish I was, and often fall back on criticism rather than providing alternatives. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that sums up pretty much most of my cohort. I hope you vote whenever you get the chance, in office races, for UFV student positions, for your favourite brand of cereal. Voting is fundamental in how our system is supposed to work, but it isn’t everything. If we are going to change the way our societies are ordered and run for the better, what matters more than voting is who shows up the day after the results and continues to work and give a part of themselves to the process.
Most of us got caught up in the anti-Harper wave last year; the youth vote has been talked up a great deal. But how many of us would have stuck around the day after, when the enthusiasm was quelled and the Facebook memes and Netflix jokes decidedly less funny? We want change, but change on its own isn’t enough. Trudeau is change, but is he really the best our nation had to offer? Does he represent your interests and experiences and principles on more than just a cosmetic level? I think this attitude of cynicism mixed with laziness is most prevalent in the “Bernie or Bust” camp; supporters who would rather stay home or give their vote to Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party than Hillary. Now truth be told, I think the size of it has been exaggerated, but it still taps into a common sentiment. People don’t trust the established system, often for good reason, nor do they trust the politicians themselves. Yet while Hillary isn’t a perfect candidate, it is ridiculous to say that there is a tough choice.
What should be on the minds of progressives is plans to hold Hillary accountable to the new platform they were able to win, and begin foster candidates and officeholders for 2020. It’s the same here, we get so fixated on the prime minister seat that we don’t pay enough attention to our local representatives and offices. Until our generation is ready to not only vote but also to hold their politicians accountable and support them throughout their terms, we won’t have the caliber of leaders we need. In a way, considering the standard of living we’ve reached and the privileges we enjoy (although not across the board), we get the class of politician that we deserve. If we continue to be complacent, uninformed, and uninterested, our politicians will continue to revel in entitlement, elitism, and dirty politics.
This is a reminder to myself as much as it is a plea to you. We’re all in this together.