There is a common thread running through both professional baseball and party politics in Canada. When an umpire calls the last “out!” in the 2015 World Series, the players will pick up their fat paycheques, retrieve their golf clubs and head to the links. The disciplined ones will continue their conditioning regime. At the management level, there will be frenzied preparation for the next season of ball. The fans, having cheered until they are hoarse, will go home and focus on other interests until the umpires again call, “play ball.”
When the current federal election campaign has run its course, the voters, like the baseball fans, will also resume other pursuits. Having voted, we believe those we have elected will now carry out their duties with an acceptable degree of diligence, having in mind what is best for citizens and the nation. We need to understand though, that the serious politicians, whether winners or losers, will now begin planning and strategizing to win the next election.
Just as for players, managers and owners, baseball is about winning, for career politicians, politics is also about winning. Many of their decisions will likely have little to do with good governance. We should not forget that over the past four years, the political parties have been engaged in an aggressive, perpetual “dog fight,” seeking to score political points.
In baseball it’s not a problem that fans are inactive in the off season. In politics though, when the people are not involved between elections, there is a significant down side. As citizens, we are stakeholders in our nation. If we are not attentive, we may one day understand to our chagrin, politics is often more about achieving and maintaining power than governing prudently.
In contending this, I certainly do not mean to slam the many fine individuals running for election. Recently I attended a local all-candidates meeting and concluded each is a reputable person with honourable intentions. If the party hierarchy listened more frequently to our representatives, we would almost certainly have a superior form of government.
In our country, as in every country around the globe, there are ambitious individuals aggressively grasping for the levers of government, whatever its form. And those holding the levers cling to them tenaciously, doing whatever is necessary to thwart rivals. Too often this results in decisions designed to gain favour with multi-national corporations, or with particular elements of the electorate, not to provide sound governance.
This dynamic has prevailed throughout history. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire is one of the most thoroughly documented cases of often mutually destructive struggles between ambitious individuals, sapping the vitality of a nation and in time contributing to its down fall. In “How Rome Fell: Death of a Super Power”, Adrian K Goldsworthy says, “there was never a shortage of men wanting to be Emperor. Being killed by a rival remained the most frequent cause of death of Emperors.”
At times powerful army commanders challenged the Emperor. If the challenge was successful, the usurper usually had the Emperor killed. Goldsworthy states further, “senior officials regularly arranged for the disgrace and even death of colleagues. Personal survival and success were the foremost goals of most officials.” By the third century of the Empire’s existence, Emperors and their administrations were thinking less of the good of the Empire than their own survival. It was not a recipe for efficiency.
Goldsworthy sees parallels in our time and suggests “perhaps we should expect more from our political leaders. If they do not set an example by placing the wider good above personal or party interests, it is most unlikely anyone else will behave any better. A greater willingness to take genuine responsibility would be a good place to start.”
Although Canadian political experience is considerably more civilized than that of the Roman empire, the grasping for power is uncomfortably real. For this reason, it is essential we encourage all politicians to work first for the good of Canada and its citizens, not for party advantage. After this election we need to continue asking questions and demanding substantive answers of those elected to represent us. Unlike the game of baseball, politics does impact us, our children and our grandchildren. We can play a part in the well being of this great country.