Nation, politics is a dirty game. It's a blood sport. There's no prize for second place - the winner is the winner, and the loser is exactly that. There are no moral victories, because while you're patting yourself on the back for "doing your best", the victor is putting their policies and plans - which you very likely opposed - into action.
Because of the adversarial nature of the system, then, it's hardly surprising that campaigns often rush to the low ground - attacking the personal background of an opponent, rather than their record or their stated policies.
I wish it didn't work. But it does.
In the Alberta Election of 2019, both the United Conservatives of Jason Kenney and the NDP of Rachel Notley are dialing up the "politics of personal destruction" to 11.
In the case of Kenney's UCP, we have been hearing since before the party even had a full-time leader about the alliance of "Rachel Notley and her close ally/friend/bff Justin Trudeau". I don't think I need to tell you, while New Democrats and Liberals are on the same side of the political bell curve, they're no more obviously allies than the federal Liberals and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. The fact that they agree sometimes, and smile for photos, doesn't make them friends.
Believe me. Looks at pictures of me and that barbarian Kirk Schmidt.
This, of course, isn't the only example of the UCP and their surrogates tossing labels at the NDP in such rapid succession that it becomes hard to refute them one at a time, because they'd just pile up all over the floor like last week's laundry. The NDP are "an accidental government". A group of Che Guevara fanboys and fangirls. A cadre of Marxists. Anyone who has even breathed the same air as Tzeporah Berman is painted as being an enemy of the energy industry, despite the very public tete-a-tete between the activist and Rachel Notley at a Teacher's Convention event last October. The NDP are without fail referred to as an "ideological government" - as though a UCP government would be any less ideological, in an entirely different direction.
On the other side, the NDP are clearly all-in on attacking Jason Kenney. His past statements and votes as a legislator on issues around same-sex marriage and abortion are under the spotlight, with a 10-minute "documentary" being released by the NDP yesterday, along with a series of websites over the past month or so with the sort of domain names that would make Ezra Levant blush. And while the bulk of their ammunition is being targeted at The Man in the Blue Pick-Up, the New Democrats and their bannermen are also digging up dirt on individual candidates, as seen earlier this week with the revelations of past statements by star UCP candidate Caylan Ford, the blowback from which caused her to resign on the eve of the writ dropping.
Ford's replacement for the UCP in the riding, Jeremy Wong, has since come under fire for statements he made while serving as a pastor. The statements, while biblically accurate, are certainly causing a stir on-line. But as I've said before: If it doesn't make it into print and the 6 o'clock news, it's not really a thing. Most Albertans who were raised in a Christian home, of any denomination, have been exposed to similar language from the Bible before, and many just walked past it as anachronistic language within a larger narrative. Is it a big deal in 2019? I suspect not, but I've been wrong before - and we still have 25 days to go until the ballots are counted.
At the end of the day, this is seemingly the approach that the NDP and UCP are going to take for the next 3 weeks. Sure, they'll release policies here and there, but overwhelmingly, they're spending their time at the podium talking about their opponents.
They're doing this, because we LET them do it.
We reward this tactic, by electing someone who participated in it.
We reinforce the bad behaviour, and then turn up our noses at how brutish politics can be. And then 4 years later, we reinforce it yet again.
It doesn't HAVE to be this way. But yet we allow it.
And the band plays on...