Election Campaigns: Professionalism and Integrity or Pot-shots and Personal Attacks?
September 23, 2010
Its election time again and as usual we are being treated to an ongoing level of drama and theatrics that is on par with a good Broadway play. However, the ongoing acrimony between some of the mayoralty candidates in the race for Ottawa mayor is a distraction from the serious issues facing Ottawa citizens and the city. And its frustrating for citizens who are looking for solid and credible leadership and clarity on what is planned by each candidate.
But isnt this just what citizens should expect when there is a volatile political race underway? After all politics is all about making points where you can and minimizing the hits someone else can take against you
It may be the historical tradition but is it an effective strategy during an election campaign? Is it an acceptable strategy for politicians in general? And what is the cost??
What is voter reaction to this as a strategy?
When politicians and candidates are busy taking pot-shots at each other, it sets a tone of unprofessionalism and nastiness that quite frankly does not endear them to voters and does little to build confidence and trust in our leaders. I assume that the idea is based on the misguided premise that voters are ok with it. Many years ago as a child l learned from my grandmother that we dont make ourselves look bigger by making someone else look smaller. It would appear to be a lesson lost on many politicians and candidates.
In my experience, much of the cynicism and skepticism that pervades our society with respect to our political system is linked to a lack of credibility and trust in our politicians. It would seem to me that if politicians are serious about wanting to increase the number of people who take our democratic political system seriously enough to show up on Election Day and cast their vote, there is a need for this credibility issue to be tackled head on.
If we look at the great leaders of history, they are characterized by a level of personal integrity and professionalism that precludes succumbing to the temptation to slip into personal attacks, partial truths, unsubstantiated accusations and misinformation. It is hard to imagine Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Ed Broadbent, Winston Churchill or JF Kennedy stooping to personal attacks, unsubstantiated attacks and innuendo to make their point.
What are the long term implications?
There is an old African proverb that says When 2 elephants fight its the grass that suffers the most. The greatest casualty of a dirty political campaign is serious discussion of serious issues requiring serious solutions. There is a need for frank and candid discussions regarding the major decisions required to take the city and the country forward into the next decades. When those discussions get mired in nastiness and the focus of the discussions is lost, we all lose.
When we elect politicians to make decisions on our behalf, we are entrusting them with the future of this country, its citizens and our contribution to the solution of global problems. We have no shortage of major problems requiring serious and credible solutions. Canadians have a right to expect leadership, integrity and credibility from their politicians it is what we elect them to provide as they make critical decisions. Where is the professionalism in personal attacks and mud-slinging?
So as voters choose which candidate they will support in this or any election, that choice is dictated at least in part by how candidates conduct themselves during the election campaign but also between elections. After all, how you do anything is how you do everything. And s/he who slings dirt, loses ground at least for many voters! For more information contact
President and Senior Mediator
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