To the extreme


Brian Topp, in conversation with Douglas Bell, considers what declining voter turnout means for our politics.

Steadily lower turnout … encourages extremism in political parties, since the key to victory becomes turning out motivated partisans instead of moderate-minded folks. In many parts of North America (rural ridings, the southern United States) this hands politics to angry, elderly white men of the sort who turned up in town halls to yell about ‘death panels’ all across the U.S. this summer. The antidote is more civility where the tone of national politics are set — on the floor of the House of Commons. But all the forces converging there (internal and external, politic and substantive) pull it apart, rather than knitting it together.


To the extreme

  1. Yes, we need more civil discussion in the HOC. Just as we saw yesterday concerning the delivery of medical supplies to isolated northern native clinics.

    Luckily we have a competent opposition that wouldn't try and make a scandal out of a routine supply shipment of body bags.

    Ignatieff obviously leads an intelligent bunch.

    • The above comment demonstrates why this is hopeless.

      I'm sure the commenter didn't read the Globe article, is not aware of the insufferable Andrew Potter's book review and the backlash, nor the work in question that deals with last year's democratic crisis.

      Hope it was worth it, "Dakota"

    • How's the weather on Lancaster Road today?

  2. The odd thing is that something the reverse of what Topper decries is what seems to be happening. In terms of policy, the actual differences between parties seem to be shrinking not growing. Meanwhile, the rhetorical extremes people are willing to go to to attack the opposition get more intense. I usually disagree with Anon, but he is right on the money about the first comment. (Odd, though, that he immediately engages is pointless rhetorical excess himself re. Potter.)

    Isn't it just possible that the voters are reacting rationally to the facts on the ground. That governments, especially the federal government, just don't have a lot to do anymore. That, as long as they don't screw up what we have, we don't care that much who gets elected. Politicians, meanwhile, have to exaggerate the supposed failings of their opponents in the hopes that we will get worried enough to vote.

    • There are two Anons. I assume that the one above is the one who doesn't immediately engage in pointless rhetorical exercises.

      • Yes, let's do that. It's always better to assume the best if we can.

  3. Maybe Canadians are complacent because we are a pretty satisfied bunch! Is there any better place in the world to live? no.

    'Steadily lower turnout … encourages extremism in political parties'
    if so, why is Lizzy May still looking for a seat in Parliament,
    and the Christian Heritage party has yet to take hold, and the Reform and PCs united, and all 3 of the coalition partners were ready to water down their whine?
    That statement is just not true here in Canada.

  4. "Steadily lower turnout … encourages extremism in political parties, since the key to victory becomes turning out motivated partisans instead of moderate-minded folks."

    Surely, the opposite is true and higher turnout is the result of extremism in politics since it gives everyone a reason to vote. People with views outside of the mainstream don't vote when parties don't reflect their views and moderates have less incentive to vote when there isn't a substantial difference between the parties.

  5. Actually, the "extreme" would be to have Coyne's dream come true, forcing Canadians, many against their will, to march out to vote.

    If you can't be arsed, by all means stay home. How that leads to a condemnation of the stereotypical "angry elderly white male" for actually giving a damn about his country, well, it's beyond me…