And two: make the party leaders voice the ads. None of these ads appears without the leader’s authorization — yet their fingerprints are kept off them. They can take the high road, while their minions do their dirty work. If any of this filth came out of their own mouths, they’d have to be accountable for it.
- Andrew Coyne
I personally think this is a brilliant idea. We're seeing a widening gap between those who pass judgement and those who suffer the consequences; it's as true of arms-length attack ads as it is of using drones instead of soldiers. The end result is a failed democracy where the kings at the top wage wars that weigh most heavily on the pawns on the bottom, with collateral damage (in this case, voter engagement) suffering as a consequence.
Of course, Coyne isn't in politics - he merely covers it. Were he to have real skin in the game and be faced with attacks directed at his very character, he might be a bit more inclined to circle the wagons, hit first and hit hard, too. It's first-past-the-post after all - the players are victims of the game, right? The ends justify the means, winning absolves all responsibility for campaign sins?
You'd think Stephen Harper, who loves him some cutthroat political maneuvering, would agree that understanding the context in which political skulduggery happens matters. After all, he always finds ways to explain the root causes of the challenge and justify his actions (whether it's bribing a dying man, lying to the Canadian people, withholding information or bullying people over whom he has power).
But that's not the case, is it?
“When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes,” Harper told reporters.
Bad behaviour is bad behaviour, in other words - it doesn't matter what informs that behaviour, you just stamp it out.
Now's about when enablers of Harper will circle the wagons around him and cry fowl - he hasn't killed anyone. This is true - but by allowing for his Party to circulate false information, by stepping away from vital conversations around drought in Africa and the environmental consequences of the Oil Sands he is contributing to the harm of many. If a lack of robust Census data results in service deficiencies that see people die unnecessarily, then he would definitely wear some of that blame.
If something like that happened (just as it did with Walkerton or Ipperwash) Harper's enablers would again circulate, reminding us there are two sides to every story and that Harper is a good guy who deserves our support. Which is exactly what the folk defending the rapers of Rehtaeh Parsons are doing right now.
Either bad behaviour is bad behaviour that must be punished, not rationalized, or you need to understand the context to make a sound judgement. It can't be both.
Which is why there is real value in tying judgement and accountability, especially at the highest levels, together. Those who okay negative attacks that will have real consequences for others should have the courage and conviction to wield the proverbial sword themselves. Whether or not you're willing to step into the ring and put your own skin in the game is the ultimate test of what someone believes in. Making it so that you have no alternative might just convince the players to think through their choices before acting rashly.
Andrew Coyne's on to something with this personal accountability concept; let's just hope he doesn't lose his head over it.