CFN – Sometimes I wonder if a candidate for public office needs to have their head examined for choosing their profession. Candidates have a really tough challenge. They have to make enough noise to get elected, then they have to make promises about what they’ll do when elected, they or course have to win a sometimes bloody battle, then they have to try to keep their promises while representing not only the interests of those that put them there but also the interests of those that didn’t. After all, they not only represent their friends in their ridings but the entire riding.
When a politician aggregates interests in order to please as many people as possible, they invariably offend the supporters on the fringe. That’s a no-no too because the rabid fringe are the volunteering kind and love them or hate them, no politician gets elected without volunteers. That’s a balancing act of it’s own! There’s no job-security in politics. 5 years and your work is reviewed by a fickle electorate. Even if YOUR performance was good, if your party falls out of favor, you lose your job. In other words, the job is not for the faint of heart!
One of the biggest things that a potential candidate must consider is whether they REALLY want to donate their life to the public domain. A lot of people muse that the politician’s life is oh-so lavish. They are the ruling class, the elite, the hogs at the trough! I can’t COUNT how many times a person as told me that they don’t vote because ,”They’re all crooks anyhow so why bother!” There is a built in mistrust of politicians because it is felt that they are not hard workers, not trustworthy and ultimately won’t improve the lot of the average constituent. While I don’t share this view, I certainly am aware of it.
One of the side-effects of this mistrust of politicians is that the media tend to play to this. A journalist will tend to cover stories that underscore saucy bits from a candidate’s past. Some of the hottest news comes when a candidate is caught in a falsehood, or an embarrassing gaffe or worse yet, when a part of their past comes back to haunt them.
That’s right. I said that a candidate must be prepared to donate their entire life to the public and I meant it! We only have to look at poor Anthony Marco, NDP candidate of Tim Hudak’s riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook to see how this can come into play.
Anthony Marco is a teacher and an avid pod-caster. He has something like 300 hours of recorded commentary about a whole host of things on this website www.lovehatethings.com. Apparently, he had said that while he disagrees with Nazi ideology, he feels that it is akin to a religious view. He goes on to say that those who dedicate their lives fighting such views are ‘pretty messed up’.
Marco says other rather incendiary things. He compares members of specific religious faiths to devotees to specific cola fan clubs. I guess his reasoning is that a Roman Catholic Christian and an Anglican or Methodist Christian would be like a Coke or Pepsi or other cola brand aficionado. You can see how this might inflame the odd voter!
I imagine that in an effort to be pithy and irreverent, Anthony Marco made lots of comments about numerous touchy subjects. This appears to be his style. I’m not sure about his comments on hate-speech. While I find that a little a bit questionable, I do see the value of irreverence. After all, if there was no little boy shouting from the rooftop that the emperor was wearing no clothes, who would have told him?
So the subversive in me likes that Anthony Marco tilts at windmills, tips sacred cows and otherwise shoots from the hip (or the lip) but the pragmatist in me knows that while there is a role for a court jester in the public sphere, the jester is there to entertain the court, not lead it.
So the NDP has learned a valuable and hard lesson today. Perhaps the same lesson that Tory Candidate Randy Hillier has learned and the same that candidate Tim Hudak has learned. Your private life is not private and therefor fair game.
In the case of Marco, his past words are coming back to haunt him. His desire for notoriety in creating 300 plus hours of pod-cast have created a rush to pore over every inch of it and find words to trap him with. In Hillier’s case, being profoundly against taxes while having an investigation into your own failure to pay taxes puts him in a messy spot. In Tim Hudak’s case, past comments (and signed petitions) on abortion and then reversals on this subject, his inability to get his own party’s support on his platform, the fact that his wife was an adviser to Mike Harris, these things are hard for people to get past.
I guess the best way to describe this phenomenon is ‘cringe-worthiness’. How likely is the public to cringe when they hear the news of these embarrassments? In some cases, they won’t factor into a voter’s opinion. In some cases, it can put a taint on a candidate that can prove to spoil their career. Certainly some good Liberal candidates have had their names ruined by the sponsorship scandal. Many of whom played no active role in any crime but will never hold public office ever again.
Is this fair? Perhaps not, but it is a factor that all potential candidates must consider when mulling over the decision to give yourself over to public office. It also calls into question the provincial NDP’s diligence (and lack thereof ) in vetting candidates. I do realize that it’s sometimes hard to find quality candidates and when one who’s credential’s look good, a teacher, active in the community etc, it’s tempting to fast-track them through the process. This is a mistake.
I want to be clear here. I do not think Anthony Marco is a bad guy. I’m sure he was filling a lot of empty air on his pod-cast, perhaps musing about subjects well past his bedtime, philosophizing and all-around spit-balling on myriad subjects. Sometimes what you’re saying doesn’t come out as you would have intended. This is also a good reason to learn that in this day an age, anything that you ever said publicly can be found, repeated, reprinted, rehashed and used against you.
When you’re on the outside, you can easily take on the role of jester. To doff the pointy hat. It’s fun to entertain, poke fun at the institutions and sacred cows, tilt a the windmills but be warned! When it’s time for you to take off the funny hat and wear the serious one, your past actions will not be forgotten. After that, putting on the serious hat won’t necessarily make them take you seriously.
What we are witnessing both federally and provincially is a coming of age for the NDP. They must learn these lessons and they need to learn them yesterday. What the public needs to take away from this is that the NDP is still a very young and inexperienced party. Full of good people? No doubt. Are they immune to internal squabbling, scandal, the aggregation of interests making them look bad? No way.
In some ways, the same cautions can be used for the Ontario Conservatives. Tim Hudak is a relative newbie. He has essentially made all the same mistakes as Mr. Marco. He’s paying the price for them too. No matter where you are on the spectrum, far left, center or far right, these rules apply.
So in conclusion, we can’t be too hard on these candidates/parties for their indiscretions. They happen to anyone when they transition from youth to adulthood. They can reasonably be chalked up to political adolescence. The question that is now put to the Ontario voter is simple, “Do you really want an adolescent to run your province?”