In fact, I remember attending many different party events in my previous partisan life - and a sense that even if I was out "among the enemy", we were all there for a common and noble purpose: serving the public through politics.
This morning, while training new DECAs at CSI Regent Park, I learned that Thomas Mulcair was launching his book and his campaign on the 1st floor of the building (Daniels Spectrum). For a while, it seemed like he might come up for a tour of the facilities.
There were security folk present, but at no time was anyone pushed away, sniffed with dogs or ever made to feel like they didn't belong in the presence of The Leader for any reason. Heck, I even got a pat on the back from one of Mulcair's folks for trying to coerce him up to the 3rd floor (offer's still open, btw!)
Maybe it's because Team Mulcair isn't as experienced with public engagement at rallies as the other guys; maybe it's that the audience was only a few dozen people. I don't know. What I do know is that everyone in the room was polite, engaging and non-confrontational and the leader was as approachable as anyone leading a book-signing can be.
Worth noting - I saw no evidence that members of the CPC or LPC War Rooms were present, which might have something to do with the civility. Had they been present, they would have been looking for gotcha moments or inducing some of their own, which would likely have put a chill in the air (naturally, the whole reason for doing so).
Contrast this experience with Susanna Kelley's experience with Team Harper. She's well-enough known that her threat-level could easily have been verified, if Team Harper had any real intent on transparency in their events and engagement with the public at large.
As Kory Teneyck has made clear, though, that's not the intent of Harper's campaign.
When the CPC is doing a manufacturing announcement, see, they only want manufacturing people as backdrop. If they're doing a safe-zone rally of established Harper fans, they're keeping everyone else out, like bouncers turning away poorly-dressed folk trying to get into a posh bar.
Put another way - if you're not the market for whatever's on offer at a given event, you're not welcome. Between outings, you're not welcome.
Like a WWF wrestler, when the PM is off, he's off - you only get to see the showman when he's on stage. When he wants you to see him.
The reverse isn't the case; it's a dangerous world out there full of people who may not have The State's best interests at heart. They could be terrorists, or eco-terrorists, journalists or public servants. You don't need to know what the Leader is up to when he's not messaging, but he needs to know what everyone else is doing, just to be safe.
I wish that was hyperbole; I wish I could laugh along with the snide dismissals partisan flaks will drown such statements in. The problem is, they're right on the mark.
When you're inside the bubble, it's hard to see how the isolation impacts you. When you're confident in yourself beyond all measure, it's impossible to see how success can erode your integrity. Like evolution, it doesn't matter if you believe in the human weakness for corruption; it exists regardless.
We have a government that talks about memorials to the victims of communism yet doesn't see how so much of their action could easily be first steps on that same slippery slope:
- tough-on-crime mixed with tough-on-ideological opponents
- enemies of the state include journalists, academics, artists
- the leader is less and less present, the partisan machine takes over government to extreme degree
- communication disappears into messaging
- the truth is vetted and the facts censored
Of course, you could easily think (and certainly, opposition parties will reinforce) that this is simply a CPC/government problem that a New Government could fix. That's how the game works, right?
And even with he press, the Tories have managed to up the ante: Campaign 2015 has gone beyond the we-won't-answer-journalists'-questions shtick (which has unfortunately contaminated Opposition campaigns as well) and has moved on to a policy of we-won't-let-you-anywhere-near-us.
Campaigns are increasingly not places to risk unscripted moments, planted or unplanted uncomfortable questions, etc. It's too risky; you might end up with a bad quote or image that could derail your carefully constructed campaign plan.
The purpose of that plan?
Not for the common and noble purpose of serving the public through politics, certainly. The public isn't to be served, and certainly not engaged. It's to be sold and messaged to.
See, the other parties are seeing what works for the sitting government and, like it or not, are cribbing from their playbook. They don't want to be undermined by such naive principles as transparency and accountability - that's for elections to decide, caveat emptor-style.
Public service isn't the objective. Winning is.
Winning in modern politics means putting the Leader first and all competition behind, with the public little more than captive audience to the race before them.
When that happens - when a chasm of engagement and communication forms between government and the people - policy makers get further and further away from the concerns, priorities and aspirations of the people.
The people's representatives have less and less voice; the media is increasingly kept at arm's length; the people themselves are being vetted on partisanship before being allowed to access their own government.
When the Leader comes first, the people come last. That might be smart campaigning, but it makes for very poor democracy.