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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 13 June 2014

How Did Wynne Win

You'll hear a lot of pundits offering their take on why the election ended as it did, with a Liberal majority.  Did Wynne's vision win?  Did Hudak's vision lose?  Was it third-party ads that swayed the day?  How much does the Liberal's existing record play into the picture?  Or Hudak's record as a Mike Harris stalwart?  did Horwath make any impact at all?
We'll hear every variant under the sun, delivered with confidence of course.  That's what pundits and advocates do - push their message relentlessly and interpret results in a way that benefits them.
Even the pollsters remain confident in their methodology.
We heard a slightly different Kathleen Wynne over the campaign than we're used to - a bit more focused on herself than what she can do - but throughout what was a tough campaign, Kathleen Wynne remained as she has always been; herself. 
Kathleen Wynne isn't a spinner (although she is a runner).  She is authentic, honest and direct.  Equally, Wynne isn't the sort of person who figures she has all the answers; in fact, the skill that she has the most confidence in, the one which motivated her to run for Leader is her facilitation ability.
It was suggested over the campaign that Wynne's sounded less like a leader and more like a bureaucrat by talking details.  In truth, she sounded less like a campaigner and more like someone ready to have a meaningful conversation with partners, which is what she is.
I like to think that, for the majority of Ontarians who aren't rabid partisans, this sincerity shone through.  Tired of spin, message, deflection and obfuscation, we're looking for someone who understands leadership as being a conduit, not a capstone.
It may just be this is how Wynne won.  Regardless, it's how Ontario is going to win, which is what our leaders should be focused on anyway.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Why #VoteON Isn't Over Yet

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the word Liberal is not just letters on a lawn sign.  It is the generosity of spirit that defines us at our best.  And so do you.
The results are coming in as I write this and it's looking like another Liberal government.  That being the case, Tim Hudak's political career will come to an end and Andrea Horwath might be existing the stage as well.
For a moment, all the hard-working Liberal candidates, volunteers and paid staff deserve to high-five each other, do toasts and the like.  Frankly, for the blood, sweat, tears, dollars and conviction all people who've helped on this campaign have put in, they all deserve some appreciation.
Don't think for a second, however, that a Liberal win is a cleansing of past concerns or a complete repudiation of the PCs or NDP or even the Greens. 
When the dust settles, it'll become clear that far fewer voters engaged than could have.  Divisions between Parties will largely exist along geographic lines, with urban centres divides from rural ones and the North.
There will be a lot of hard feelings, ill will on one side and on the other, a nearly irresistible urge to gloat and get cocky.
This would be a mistake.
Ontario is increasingly a fractured, disenfranchised place.  People are tuning in to what matters to them, not the whole picture; patience for shared solutions is weak.  Increasingly, they're not voting - especially young Ontarians, who could very well stay non-voters moving forward.  It's not a good picture.
Now comes Kathleen Wynne's true test of leadership.
Her job now is to do what she has always done best - to engage, to listen and to build common ground.  Nowhere will this be more important than within her own Party.
It's time for the Ontario Liberal Party to really dig deep and reconnect themselves with what liberalism really means to them.
Is it just about being better than the other guys?  Or is it more than that?
Four years is a lot of time to get things done.  Starting off with some policy pieces that really unite the Parties and the province would set the right tone for the term to come.
It's time for Liberals to be at their best - not for their benefit, but for all of Ontario's.

Moving Forward Together Means Leaving No One Behind

Short post (for a change) as I'm on the road very shortly, but in a nutshell, Radwanski is touching the elephant that has been rubbed up against by many.

We can blame the politicians, who are cow-towing to Parties rather than to their constituents; we can point fingers at the political operatives who are pushing the envelope of what's acceptable in their constant quest for power.  We can blame unions, corporations, youth, baby boomers, whoever we feel makes a decent scapegoat.

But this is a democracy folks.  We have all kinds of rights - to speech, association, opinion, or to completely disengage, should we so choose.  With these rights, however, comes responsibility.  The system isn't responsible to us - we are the system.

Our democracy is failing because we have made the choice not to get informed, get engaged and make a difference.  We'd rather others do that for us and then complain when we're not happy with the results.

There are many people and organizations out there right now, trying to turn the tide, mostly on a volunteer basis.  Sadly, those with money have a hard time recognizing the ROI of keeping our democracy alive.

Here's how it has to work - the only way it can work.  The people at the top need to want to engage with, not message to, the people.  The people need access to information and above all, need to feel empowered.  

Organizations working on this, with precious few if any dollars, include Samara, Why Should I Care, the Maytree Foundation, Make Web Not War, SoJo and many, many others.  

Individuals from marginalized communities are trying to get organized and get information to their communities, but don't know where to start.  Public Servants are holding conversations and events where all are welcome, but few know about.  Amazing new consultation processes through firms like Swerhun and Exhibit Change are transforming Decide, Sell, Defend into Discuss, Decide, Do.

The answers we seek are being worked on right now, in silos, reaching out for ways to connect.  It's a powerful story.

The question is, are the people from top to bottom ready to listen?  Are they prepared to take part in building this new narrative?

We keep talking about the need for change.  Complaining is easy.  The real question is, are we prepared to work together to make it happen?

That means all of us - partisans, private, union, grassroots, public servants, press.  It takes everyone to make democracy work.

Moving forward together means leaving no one behind.  

It's really as simple as that.

A New Kind of Smart

"Smart" is an entirely relative term that means different things to different people in much the same way "success" does.

In politics, for instance, you can be "smart" like a policy-wonk without being "smart" at messaging and vice versa.  

The person who cuts pushes to the front of a line or rushes through lights can be considered "smart" in that they're getting ahead, but stupid in that they're creating a mess behind them.

You can be really competent at sales without having the slightest ability to create anything new to sell yourself.

Just as you can be an innovative genius who spins out ideas with ease, but have zero natural ability to sell yourself.

As we face a growing number of structural problems and as cracks are showing in everything from doctor performance to polling results to communications in the age of social media, we're recognizing that somewhere along the way, how we sell has replaced what we do as the thing that's attracting attention.  

You can't sell unless you have something to sell.  Creating doesn't put food on the table unless what's created gets sold.

Of course there's no reason everyone should be great at everything - that defeats the whole purpose of specialization.  In fact, recruitment as a profession is on the rise again, as is an emphasis on leaders reaching out rather than waiting, laissez-faire, for people to come to them.

You put these folk together, you've got something special.  It worked for Apple and Microsoft.

If you really want to be smart, think collaboration.  

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Who's Going to Win #VoteON? These Pollsters Have the Answer

And how can @forum have the at 19% and have them at 30%? Someone's gonna have some splainin' to do.

Of course they do.  Don't they always?

It must be so.  After all, they do billions of dollars annually, those pollsters.  If their methodology was broken, no one would be using it.

We're rational actors, after all.  Focused on facts, so on and so forth - not succumbing to what's simple, confidently and repetitively articulated.  This is especially true of the people at the top; they all get to where they are because of skill, not bluster.  Right?

It's them sociology-committing behavioural economists you need to worry about.  They do things like ask questions, test assumptions and focus on the mechanics, not the sales.

Forget them, focus on the people at the top.  Only they have the answers - not us, collectively.

Smokey the Bear - only smokey can prevent forest fires donate $25 to smokey's campaign here

@AndreaHorwath and @TimHudak: Open By Default

We haven't heard a lot about Open Government this campaign.  It could be that the NDP and PCs see it as a Liberal thing - which is odd, seeing how OpenGov is being championed by the Conservatives federally.

PhotoOpen Gov and Open Data aren't a Liberal thing - it's being spearheaded by the bureaucracy.  It's also not limited to Canada, Ontario and Toronto; literally, Open Gov is a global movement, which is very cool.

There's more than a passing chance that they really have no idea what Open Government is about, though, or why it's both common sense and a job creator.

They can't be blamed; as of now, there are really passionate, smart, engaged people speaking in complex technical terminology at events called hackathons.  

While the concept is about engaging, the message still needs refined and designed to become a conversation.  That is, however, the goal.  Makes for a great, already-built opportunity that political communications pros could capitalize on, don't you think?

I wouldn't want to think that either the NDP or PCs are shy about embracing Open Government because, well, it's open; after all their smack talk about the Ontario Liberals, they could be extra cautious about creating opportunities for their own selfish plays or examples of mismanagement getting out.

Thing is, this is a genie that's out of the bottle.  

People are more disaffected than ever with government and politics.  Those who've been inside the system for a while are assuming the disaffection is the same as it always is and are therefore continuing to play by outdated rules of engagement.

They don't realize the game has changed and that there's a new player at the table.

In the very big picture, it doesn't matter who forms the next government - the challenges faced are the same and the solutions are all variants on the same theme; open, authentic engagement, from top to bottom.  Nothing less has the capacity to deliver the shared solutions we need, nor empower people from every walk of life to be part of their implementation.

People are sharing their lives online.  Leaks and FOIs are revealing the inner lives of politics.

It's simply good planning to get out in front and be open first.  

As every pol knows, it's better to define yourself than let someone else do that defining for you.


Vote, Yoda Says

Yoda - Vote. There is no "I'm too busy."

Yoda - Anger, fear, aggression;  the dark side of politics are they

Yoda - Once you start down the path of democratic disengagement forever will it dominate your destiny

Yoda - you will know engagement when you are calm, alert, and learning

Yoda - Careful you must be when spinning the future  the fear of loss is the path to despotism

Just Imagine, Ontario

Lord knows how the election will shake out.  None of us are precognitive, after all.  If the above scenario proves to be true, though, Hudak will be gone and it's possible Horwath might not last, either.  
That means new leaders and directions for Opposition Parties, a definite good thing for the Liberals - in the short term.  If this happens and a minority Liberal government follows the proper political playbook, we'd end up with a snap election while the Opposition is in disarray.

Just imagine how much fun that campaign would be.

There is an alternative, however - unlikely, even fanciful, but worth considering.

If our Political Parties decided to build their brands by acting like governments, not partisans, they could do this crazy thing called collaboration; find some common ground, key issues that they can agree upon and focus on doing the heavy lifting that is vital for the recovery of our economy and the strengthening of our weakening social fabric.

Of course, it'd be hard to see that happen if we weren't prepared to support the process, proactivley.

Are we ready for collaborative change?  Are we ready to be part of the solution rather than prognosticators of the problems?

If hope is on the way, it won't land upon us from without - it will be nurtured from within.

#VoteON Closes, yet #WeAreOpen

The 2014 Ontario election is drawing to a close - by now, most voters (who are actually going to vote) have either already made up their mind, or decided not to make up their mind until they get to the polling booth.  The contending Political Parties have their supporter lists and are rallying their GOTV (Get Out The Vote) teams for a big push tomorrow - because, you know, the stakes are so high.

Meanwhile, most voters are disenfranchised with the whole ordeal.  It's just another election, just another bunch of politicians selling lines to get into power.  Some partisans are angry, or scared, or trying to be angry or scared, conveying a message that A or B need to be stopped.

At the same time, many of the people who have championed the style of politics that has contributed to our general political fatigue are calling this campaign soul-sucking, dispiriting, depressing.  It's rather telling, this.

Expectations are we'll have another minority, meaning the cycle is only going to reset itself; agitated Parties seeking an end game are going to dig in further, as will their various stakeholders.  

As this constant brinkmanship plays out provincially, and federally, and even municipally, people are starting to say "enough!"

It's one thing to be agitated, though - another to do something to correct the problem.

Enter the growing Open Community, the Aquarian Conspiracy of our times.  

There are public servants out there who really want to serve the public interest - they don't see their job as a push function, but one of engagement.  There are corporations like Microsoft and Socrata who have realized that altruism is selfishness that plans ahead - they want to be open, they want to support community, because they have clued in to the reality that committing sociology is actually good for business.

Add to this social entrepreneurs, grassroots groups, forward-thinking consultancies like Swerhun and Exhibit Change on top of civic engagement groups ranging from Samara to Why Should I Care to the Maytree Foundation and there is a picture starting to emerge.

There are politicians out there running for office who spend more time educating people about how our system works or raising the voices of marginalized communities than they're spending selling themselves.  Two favourites are Idil Burale and Morgan Baskin.  They might not win office, but by engaging their communities in the process, they are winners none the less.

As the political water hole shrinks, the open community is growing.

Both these things are happening on an increasingly frustrated landscape where burnout at work, income disparity, democratic disengagement and in some cases, civil unrest are on the rise.  

Poll after poll (for what they're worth) says that Canadians/Ontarians/the people want change, but it's not entirely clear that they know what that change looks like.

Lurking in the background like the sun behind a cloud is Open Government and Open Data - transparency, collaboration, community, rooted online but spreading out into neighbourhoods literally across the globe.

Here in Canada, social catalyst Richard Pietro is taking his OpenGov motorcycle across the country on a speaking tour.  Along the way, he will be experiencing Canada, meeting Canadians, sharing the vision that so many of us have embraced.

Open Government on the Open Road across one of the most amazing landscapes in the world.  It's a pretty cool idea, the kind of thing people can totally get immersed in.

In fact, that immersion is going global already.  There's interest from Australia in maybe seeing Richard take his tour down under.

It's important to note that Richard isn't doing this to build his brand or to land promotional deals.  He is 100% authentic; his values are recorded online, so that everyone can hold him to account.  More importantly, he feels in his bones that it's his role to hold himself to account, too.

He lives what he believes, which is what most politicians only talk about - transparency, engagement, community empowerment, moving forward together.

Richard's an inspiration, but he's hardly the only player out there.  People like Bianca Wylie, polymath facilitation genius, are actively working to put themselves out of business by sharing how they do what they do with others, so that they can do it on their own.

Make Web Not War is doing the same thing; so is SoJo.  So is Wakata, as we start to get our feet under us.

We aren't the first.  There is a whole movement of Social Entrpreneurs already being the change out there, making some money but more than anything, investing in their communities because they are forward-thinking enough to see the consequences if nobody does this.

If not us, who, if not now, when is not a saying for all these folk catalyzing change - it's a way of living.

It's not hard to look at politics and become dispirited - even the people in the system are losing faith in its ability to function under our current, partisan-centric model.  If VoteON has taught us anything, it's that we have collectively lost our way.

This isn't a bad thing - it's a starting point.  When we're no longer confident with the direction we're headed, we are forced to explore the landscape, consider new frontiers and then, as happens in times of uncertainty, reach out to each other for support on how to get there.

We are all on the open road with Richard, exploring our democracy with fresh eyes and seeking the Undiscovered Countries of new pastures.

One door is closing, but a window is opening - a little reminder that we don't live in silos, and that the whole world is ours to explore and build upon, together.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Endings vs Solutions

I've written before about assisted suicide and palliative care.  My greatest concern is that the more we focus on how to stop a problem from existing, the less time we spend on trying to solve it.

In this case, it's pain, community, being a burden.  Healthcare is expensive, people are busy working multiple jobs or being stuck in gridlock - we have collectively put "the economy" above human well-being, and this is part of the price.

It's hardly the only one, though.

I just wrote a post on how politics is all about an end-game that never comes; Opposition continues to exist, no matter how hard you message or crack down.

The same applies to crime and its social determinants; locking up criminals in perpetuity or banishing poor people doesn't make structural problems go away.  Downloading responsibility to other tiers of government or society doesn't work, either.

Band-aid solutions don't cut it.  One-offs designed and delivered in silos aren't enough.

Sustainability isn't a game to be won, it's like a garden that needs constant tending.  

So long as we keep playing whack-a-mole and trying to stop problems from existing, we will never address them successfully.

We need to stop focusing on how we die or how we destroy our enemies and start focusing on how we're going to live, here, together.

Until then we're just wasting time and resources.  So much for efficiency.

#VoteON: The Day After E-Day

It's entirely possible that, when what ballots get cast are counted, we'll end up with either a Liberal or Conservative majority government.  In that scenario at least one, but likely both Opposition leaders will be gone and their Parties will focus on laying track and getting fighting ready for the next election. The new Premier, meanwhile, would have the power to pretty much do as they please.

A more likely scenario is that we'll have either a Conservative or Liberal minority government.  In this case, Opposition Parties will have to decide if they want to risk new leaders that could find themselves facing a snap election rather quickly.  The goal of politics, remember, isn't to govern, but to gain and hold power - that's how the system works.

Those with power (the government in theory, the Leader and Office of the Premier of Ontario in practice) will have to decide if they focus on rapidly building towards a next election by picking the right fights quickly or take the minority route for a while, trying to undermine their opponents, score wins and build some credibility with their likely slice of the electorate.  Both scenarios, again, are about building towards a majority.

No matter how this second, more likely scenario shakes out, the reality is that leaders, Parties and stakeholder groups that have essentially vilified each other as corrupt, despotic and incompetent will find themselves back in the same sandbox together facing the same structural problems.  Elections, you see, aren't armistices.

Added to this picture, of course, will be an even more disaffected, frustrated population that will still be agitating for change, but increasingly believing none of the above can solve it.

To paraphrase Colin Powell:

Let's get the blame game out of the way immediately, so we can move on.

It's not the fault of politicians that citizens are tuning out, any more than they can really be blamed for putting partisan wins before shared solutions.  That is, after all, the way our system functions these days - winner takes all and if you don't win, you can't contribute.  For their part, businesses can't really be blamed for trying to maximize their profit - if they weren't doing so, they'd be not-for-profits, and who'd fund those?  

Unions can't be blamed for trying to maximize wins and reduce competition for their members, either - that's the role they are supposed to be playing.

Across the board, we have siloed sectors and organizations doing exactly what they are supposed to do.  That's not the issue.  It's the play, not the players, that's the problem here.

We don't talk with each other - we talk at each other or even worse, we're doing monologues to an audience, ignoring each other entirely.

Which brings us back to politics.  You're not supposed to commit sociology in politics; it tends to conflict with message discipline.  Politics is like a sport this way, which is why we have so many "blood sport" similes - focused teams are supposed to play defined roles, deliver wins and take the cup, i.e. form government.

Where politics varies from sports is that the winning thing is only a prelude to the actual work of governance which, done well, involves listening to and incorporating ideas from other Parties and stakeholders, consultations and a focus on finding efficient, shared solutions by building bridges rather than picking fights.

You see where the challenge lies.  

To the best of my knowledge, politics is the only field where players go out of their way to demonize the very same people they are mandated to work with day in and day out.  Let's say Wynne is returned as Premier - would Horwath or anyone on her team be able to work with someone they've tarred as corrupt without losing their credibility?  

Let's say Hudak wins - is he capable of gaining the confidence of the House?  For her part, could Wynne support any element of Hudak's plan as a trade-off without losing credibility?

This is where the sports analogies wear thin.  Competitive athletes are entertainers, beating each other for the amusement of an audience.  They aren't policy makers.  

In politics, as "the stakes" grow bigger (tougher competition), the more vitriolic partisans become. This creates an escalation of personalized animosity that it's hard to scale down from, especially in a minority situation - and even moreso when the street theatre is the only thing that really seems to get us citizens to pay attention.

Let's reiterate this; when politicians stop bringing the issues in all their complexity to citizens, it's because they've concluded you're not capable of understanding them or simply don't care to bother. Either case is a failure of civic responsibility.

Which is a failure on our part.

Here's one fact I think we can all agree on; the day after E-Day, the world will still be spinning and the challenges we face will be exactly the same as they were before.  No solution brought forward by any Party or stakeholder has a hope in hell of working in complete isolation, because the world isn't top-down; it's integrated.

It's time we quit looking at each other as the enemy and expecting the solutions to our problems to come from someone else.  

There is no one else.  There's no them, either - there's only us.  Like it or not, we do like on common ground - in the same cities, the same province, relying on the same transit, hospitals, schools, etc.  We rely on each other.

And none of us is going anywhere.  The Other Parties aren't going to fall off the map.  Poor people, rich people, urban or rural folk aren't going to pick up and leave, nor should we want them to.

We can't keep doing this; living each man for himself like the world's going to end tomorrow isn't going to work.  

Portraying ourselves as the only ones with a simplistic, back-of-napkin plan to win power isn't going to work.

Wrapping all our woes up and hanging them around the neck of one group or another isn't going to work.

Minority or majority, this E-Day or the next, the inescapable fact is that the only way we can get past these continuous loggerheads we face is to start moving forward together.

And nobody can make us do this; we have to want to do it ourselves.

Monday 9 June 2014

The Wheel's Still In Spin

The folk I know who are really successful at all this messaging stuff will smirk at this comment, then go back do doing things the way they know it actually works.  



Message discipline.

Attack competitors.

Change the channel.

Ignore - it will all go away, people have short attention spans, etc.

The problem is, people aren't sheep; it's not that they don't care, they simply don't like their options. Increasingly, "none of the above" is becoming the default choice.  Less votes are being cast, less attention is being paid, increasingly narrow and uninformed choices are being made that work ideologically, but not practically.

It's a spiral - not a fatal one, if reversed, but that reversal needs to happen.

Which, fortunately, it is.  There's an increasing appetite for authenticity - people being themselves rather than what they think will sell.  Authentic people are out there, as they have always been.  Thanks in no small part to social media and unwavering commitment to causes greater than themselves, these authentic voices are on the rise, and converging.

It's an old refrain:

The Behavioural Economics of Declining Ballots

In politics, as in much of life, people and Parties focused on winning will always look to push the rules and do whatever they can get away with.  If and when they're caught, denial, deflection or flat-out lying becomes a method of avoiding accountability.

Like a child who doesn't face consequences when they don't follow instructions, the lesson learned is "hey, this works.  How much further can I push the envelope?"

It's important to understand this concept as we look at the failings of our democratic system and try to sort out how to fix it.  


We have had multiple governments elected by minorities of the voting population (but majorities of those who actually cast their vote) claiming legitimacy they don't truly have.  Legitimate opposition is being decried as anti-democratic for challenging the my-way-or-the-highway policies of these minority majorities.

The press feeds into this, because they're so desperate for copy that will sell.  People aren't buying traditional news, meaning shock-and-awe headlines are that much more important.  As is simplicity. Both the press and the politicians have learned what the private sector has already embraced - keep it simple, keep it stupid.  Low hanging fruit sell, so don't innovate a ladder.

What we end up with is, Easter Island-like, Parties and press that make due with less, deliver less, which gets consumed with greater disdain by a frustrated public.  Or not consumed, as the case may be - we've chosen to be "too busy" to engage in our system.

As in all sales professions, the most cynical political operators don't care if the car you're buying works or not, so long as they get paid.  It's actually in the best interests of the Parties on the political right for more voters to decline their ballots, because it's a statistical truth that their base, however small it might be, is guaranteed to get out and vote.  

Angry people act, is the lesson.

So while the public might try to send a message to the political system by declining votes, the question is "who cares?"  Political Parties that win won't care; the atrophying of democracy has clearly worked to their advantage.  As such, it's in their interest to stifle all voices that encourage voter participation, as we're seeing happen at the federal level.

Does this mean declining your ballot is a bad idea?  No.  It's a way to express yourself and that's something we need to do, as citizens in a democracy.  Be aware, though, of who you're trying to convey a message to.

If tough-minded political operators have such opaque blinders on that they can't see how they are actually damaging our democracy with their shenanigans, they may not be the intended audience.  

It may be that, for our democracy to survive, we have to stop shouting at the people on the watchtower and start communicating with each other, getting organized, finding ways to contribute.

Which, thankfully, is already happening.  It's too bad the press hasn't realized the power of this story - they'll get there, though.

Sunday 8 June 2014

The Fall, The Fire and The Garden

Lots of questionable actions in politics these days.  Lost of hasty decision made on narrow interests - go fast to go far, the message goes; win the race and it's too late for your opponents to do anything about it.  Victor, spoils, etc.

Every time that turns out not to be the case, vested interests dig their heels in a little harder, thrust out their elbows a little further.  The choices being made are increasingly selfish and, therefore, increasingly short-sighted.

What's the message that's coming across?

PMO has become the new Privy Council; the Prime Minister has replaced the Crown as the divine authority of the land.

It's a system that cannot work, is not working and given the complex, integrated nature of our challenges, will fall sooner or later.

People tend to prefer the quick and easy path - especially when they're angry.  We're increasingly frustrated; when that boils over, it won't be pretty.

But there will be no excuse, not at any level, for not having seen this coming.  

We can nurture the social garden, but only by committing sociology.  The alternative is brushfire.

Whatever path we choose, we're going to end up in the same place regardless.  Whether the journey is through fire or not is up to us; which is why it pays to look ahead.

Democracy Bleeds; Death by a Thousand Cuts

Sean Bean Game Of Thrones - what winter? keep calm and stay indifferent. we've got this

Coyne sums it up pretty nicely.  What point committees when it's partisan staffers making the calls? Elected officials tasked with representing their constituents' interests are increasingly disillusioned, unsure who they answer to or even what they're supposed to do.

It's a sentiment countless voters are feeling these days; what difference does it make who gets voted in? They're all going to get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they're all going to make cynical moves designed more for their Party's interests than the Public Good, etc.

The more leaders say "they're corrupt, only I will tell you the truth" the more this cynicism is fueled.

Which is why we're seeing leaders move away from trying to prove what they are and undermining the process as well.

Imagine a world where no neutral third party is tasked with encouraging people to engaged in the democratic process.  In this world, partisans will actively encourage voters to decline their ballots if they are likely to support another Party - a new and devious form of vote suppression.

Opposition is diluted, of course - facts are suppressed, history rewritten and messaging replaces real consultation.  Decisions are made not because they lead to good policy but because they serve ideological purposes.

Those who should oppose this democratic slide actually jump on the bandwagon, convinced they can wrest the reigns of power away from the incumbent.  Then, they get to play tyrant themselves.

Only this isn't a fantasy; it's the world we live in right now.  

Should the last light of democracy wink out, we will look with righteous anger at those we opt to blame.

In truth, we need only look in the mirror.  There's no they out there pulling our strings in ways over which we have no control - there's only us, making the choice not to care.

It's a tragedy of the commons; the only way out is as clear as it's always been.  It's time we became conscious of this.