Friday Fill(ibuster): Democracy detection and zombie election

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Political News Friday, April 10, 2015 View Count = 4337

Friday Fill(ibuster): Democracy detection and zombie election

zombie politics

This week’s democracy news roundup takes you from zombie politics to education policy and youth engagement. It also includes a new biweekly feature, Scholar’s Corner by UBC’s David Moscrop. Scroll down to get his take on the relationship between political orientation and upbringing — and then keep scrolling to read up on events and opportunities.

We’ll give this week’s opener to Samara volunteer and blogger extraordinaire Steven Lee, who had a neat little piece on his blog about the relationship between the zombie genre in fiction on the one hand and governance on the other: “governing is not just about making decisions and giving orders; how to carry out justice and relationships with outsiders is also part and parcel of the responsibilities of leadership. The Walking Dead is hardly unique in this depiction. Within the zombie genre Max Brooks' World War Z rarely shows a vibrant democracy, but a much harsher, more centralized, more militant, less democratic governance all around the world. The 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later films depict military-based governance, as does the video game The Last of Us and TV series Falling Skies. In all three cases the military is depicted as a means of providing security (the most precious commodity in instability) but also oppression or containment of the people they are protecting.”

University of Saskatchewan academic Ken Coates had an educational policy paper covered in the Star, in which he prescribes a reintegration of higher education with the job market: “Young adults need a bracing reality check about the job and career opportunities that await them. Parents need to be much more realistic about their abilities and skills. Policy-makers need to shift away from Canada’s open-access approach to post-secondary education — based on the idea that everyone deserves a degree or at least the chance to try to earn one — to a strategy based on achievement, motivation and compatibility with national needs.” Samara supporter Bob Sutton shot back with a blistering critique of such a program in his well-written letter to editor of the same paper: “Coates gives absolutely no examination of society’s broad needs in a complex and clearly volatile world. Surely we can regain a degree of balance and recognize that any shaking up of post-secondary education must not compel us to prostrate ourselves to the vagaries of marketplace needs while completely forgetting the countless and complex factors it takes to develop truly educated citizens with a real quality of life in a stable society.”

Aaron Wherry had a rough guide to the charges against Mike Duffy as his court case begins while Michael Den Tandt describes how there may be a better-than-even chance that the Conservatives will escape public backlash on the scandal in the coming election: Canadians not engrossed in politics could tire of its spectacle, “growing frustrated at its seemingly endless rehashing. In that event, attention will turn back to security and to the economic ballot questions, and ‘what have you done for me lately?’ The pressure is on Finance Minister Joe Oliver, in his April 21 budget, to deliver a narrative that can supersede Duffy’s flame-thrower. Let them judge us by bread, not circuses, is the new Conservative prayer.”

Brigette DePape, famous for her “Stop Harper” protest on the floor of the Senate in 2011, is back in the news. She’s attempting to drum up youth participation in the next election to—maybe not so surprising—stop Harper in 2015. Columnist Carol Goar claims that with this campaign, DePape “has matured from a flash in the pan to a committed change-maker.” Meanwhile, The Tyee has a piece explaining why Millennials are not voting and why that matters, using another young progressive as an icon in this regard: “Boomers grew up in an era when personal identity was more closely associated with specific political parties. ‘I don't feel that connection,’ 20-year-old Julie Van de Valk said. ‘In my lifetime I've never really seen leadership in any party that extends past the four year election cycle.’”

And while recent research by the Broadbent Institute shows how young Canadians could shift our politics to the left if they participated, Kelly McParland at the Post shoots back with a funny retort: “What it all proves, if anything, is that the younger and less experienced a person is, the more likely they are to buy into NDP values. As people learn that life doesn’t accord to the idealistic views of youth, the more they turn to more practical parties. The party needs to get them young, therefore, before they learn about life for themselves. Young people eventually grow up. It’s the NDP that doesn’t change.”

Excitingly, Jesse Brown’s CANADALAND media criticism podcast has yielded offspring: Desmond Cole and Andray Domise are starting a politics podcast under the same banner. Speaking of radio, the University of Waterloo’s Emmett MacFarlane was on CBC The 180 last weekend to talk about why criticizing the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions is perfectly legitimate and good for democracy.

In case you missed our Democracy 360 report card on the state of Canadian democracy, it’s worth a read! We’ve had a number of posts in our Democracy 360 blog series already, including an eloquent defence of the role of MPs from a former Parliament Hill staffer: “When I worked on Parliament Hill, I was often asked about what MPs ‘really’ do. I was always proud to explain the pace of work and life and the unfailing personal commitment, passion and motivation of the parliamentarians I worked for. I hope I was able to communicate that this was someone who really cared and was prepared to put energy into finding a solution. This was someone who was ready to take a stand and press forward despite the obstacles. This was someone who was ready to listen and learn. This was someone with common sense. And this was definitely someone who had internalized the priorities and the concerns of the people they represented. I’ve been on The Hill late at night, listening to the telephone conversations with Aboriginal band chiefs about instable ice roads, senior citizens worried about their pensions, frantic parents with teenagers in trouble outside the country, business leaders with export aspirations, political colleagues trying to reach consensus on a policy change and not-for-profit and health professionals offering insights about taking care of Canadians. I also saw the magic that happens when an MP connects with an individual or a group from their riding in a way that opens doors and opportunities. I was always struck by the humanity of the parliamentarians I worked for.”

Political Scientist Richard Tindel had a piece responding to the Democracy 360 while Craig Carter-Edwards had a thoughtful two part account of the CBC Asks debate on the night of our report launch on the question of whether politics is broken. Meanwhile, federal candidate Jane Philpott had a post, partially in response to the findings of the 360, that suggests how we might take on the triple threat of apathy, cynicism and fear: “I’m not afraid. I’m convinced we have the tools to respond. We’ll beat apathy with hope and hard work. We’ll combat cynicism with authenticity and integrity. We’ll confront fear with courage and understanding. We will build strong communities in a fair Canada. Bring on the election.”

And might this coming federal election be the most expensive in Canadian history? The Hill Times reports that there’s a good chance.

A picture of Dave

This new Friday Fill(ibuster) feature, Scholar’s Corner, is a nod to all the great research and ideas about politics and democracy that are being produced in the academy but not necessarily making it into the mainstream. PhD student David Moscrop is our guide through the scholarly wormhole and this week takes us through some interesting findings about the relationship between personality and politics.

What does your personality and your childhood have to do with your political orientation? In a paper published in the February 2015 issue of Political Psychology, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve from University College London and the Centre for Economic Performance (LSE) uses data from the United States to further confirm that individuals who score high on ratings for the “openness” personality trait tend to have a higher chance of being “very liberal,” while those who score high on “conscientiousness” have a much lower chance.

In his study, De Neve also finds that childhood trauma as a consequence of abuse positively correlates highly with the chance that a person will grow up to be very liberal, as does the presence of high levels of neighbourhood insecurity and school insecurity, though to a lesser extent than childhood trauma.

One working theory is that our personality, based on our individual experiences, impacts how we interpret our environment (politically or otherwise) and, thus, the political ideology we come to adopt.

As is often the case with such research, the data in this study is limited, and the findings do not necessarily represent a causal relationship; further research will be needed to work out the complicated links between our personality, our childhood, and our politics.

Citation: De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel. “Personality, Childhood Experience, and Political Ideology.” Political Psychology. Vol. 36, no. 1. 2015.


Events, resources and opportunities

Was the CBC asks debate about democracy not enough for you? The MacDonald-Laurier Institute has an event in Ottawa in May with John Pepall and Andrew Coyne about whether Canadian democracy is in crisis.

A campaign from tries to put women’s issues back on the national agenda with a leader’s debate focused on the women’s issues. Sign the petition here. On a related note, Samara’s Jane Hilderman is moderating a panel discussion next week in Toronto called Pathways to Power: Women in Politics.

Speaking of the federal election, there are some interesting proposals and democracy groups cropping up in the lead up. The value Ballot initiative, Shift Dialogue and New Era Clubs are three dishes in that democracy buffet. Democratic Dashboard, meanwhile, tells folks from the UK everything they need to know about their local area for their own Election 2015.

Spur is a national festival of politics, art and ideas and is a catalyst for change in Canada—and it’s happening this weekend in Toronto. Check out the program and pick up tickets here.

And applications are still open for the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy. Check it out!

(photo credit: Clark MacKey, creative commons)

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