The Social Media Election

Today is the last day for candidates to file their nomination papers to run in the Oct. 19 Canadian federal election. I will not be running. Writing this blog has disqualified me from ever being able to seek public office.

The problem is that not only do I have opinions, but I have shared them. That has become the political kiss of death.

This campaign has seen more candidates than ever before withdrawing from the race due to statements or actions from their past that have been exposed by people searching social media. Political parties, rather than weather the potential embarrassment, have been dumping candidates left, right and centre. It seems like almost every day of the campaign there has been a news story about another candidate stepping down or being removed from the ballot.

I see this as being the first true social media campaign. Yes, Facebook has been around since 2004, and Twitter since 2006 (if I remember correctly), and have been used in election campaigns before, but this year is different. With more than a decade of social media posts to go through, some candidates were bound to have politically incorrect words or deeds turn up, information that was not there last time around.

Many have questioned the thoroughness of the vetting process the parties use before approving a candidate. That criticism is unfair. The process is much more elaborate now than it was 25 years ago. However it still relies on self-reporting of potential problems. New candidates, wanna-be politicians, really non-politicians, don’t understand what they are being asked.

When asked if there is anything politically embarrassing in their past they say no. They don’t understand that something that didn’t embarrass them six years ago, something like a rant about Israel’s foreign policy (or a myriad of other things) posted to Facebook or Twitter has the potential to be politically damaging. So they don’t report it. When someone discovers the old post the party is embarrassed to be associated with someone holding those views, so the candidate must go.

I’m not going to go into details of all the peccadillos that have gotten candidates bounced in this campaign. You can find them if you like. When you look the situations objectively, it seems to me that most of the occurrences are pretty trivial. No axe-murderers slipped through the screening process. Sometimes the issues raised in those old posts could be used to spur some healthy debate. Is it possible to find Israel’s Palestinian policy misguided (to use milder language than in some offending posts) and not be in the slightest bit anti-Semitic? That is a debate we won’t be having in this election. The rush to condemn is swift, explanations are not accepted. That people can change her views over time is also apparently unthinkable. It doesn’t matter if you say you have changed your views on “X,” you are no longer worthy to be a candidate. I have what is obviously a twisted idea that perhaps the voters should be asked to decide. Maybe the electorate is more forgiving than the party brass thinks they are. Maybe voters understand that people make mistakes and can learn from them.

So the lists close today, and the candidates on the ballot will be there on October 19. For better or for worse, the bozos on the ballot will be our next Members of Parliament. I hope we get some good ones. In the fishbowl that political life has become I wonder if it is going to be increasingly difficult to attract quality candidates.



  1. J. Laurie McLean · · Reply

    Very good blog. Just one little comment that is more comical than anything else. You should be careful in naming people as “bozos” because there actually is an ethnic group in West Africa (in Mali I believe) that are known as the Bozo ethnic groupl. If any one from that group should read your blog, they may be not only disappointed but emotionally hurt. But that would only be true if they understood your understanding of the word “bozo”. Just saying.

    1. WordPress does keep track of these things for me, and while people from about 70 countries have visited this blog, Mali isn’t one of them. I am sure any of the Bozo people surfing the Net are familiar with the name Bozo the Clown, from which most North American usage of the word is derived. What they may not be familiar with is the term “bozo eruption” which I think is the uniquely Canadian way of describing impolitic outbursts and actions by our politicians. No offence was intended towards anyone, and I am sure the Bozo people would understand this perhaps better than some politicians do.

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