An Act of Bravery or Political Suicide?

In 2015, as I remember it, a young woman running as a Liberal candidate in Calgary had her candidacy revoke by the party.

Some old Facebook posts had surfaced, anti-Semitic statements she had made at 16. She said she no longer held those views, but that wasn’t good enough for the party. They replaced her as a candidate.

She wasn’t the only person in that situation. Four years ago candidates for all parties had to step aside due to old social media posts.

It has become standard opposition research to dig up those old posts and use them at politically opportune moments. The young woman in Calgary seemed to me like a good candidate. I’m not a fan of her party’s policies, but I didn’t think it fair she was being judged for who she had been as opposed to who she had become. I would have left it to the voters to discover if she really had changed.

In this era of viral (mis)information, old social media posts, taken in or out of context, seem to be increasingly used to disqualify potential candidates from ever having to face the voters. One misstep and you are gone, no appeal, no questions, just gone.

I found it surprising therefore when Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced that old social media posts would not automatically exclude someone from running as a Conservative in Canad’s October 21 federal election. If someone said they had changed their views, and rejected their previously held beliefs that were seen as being incorrect, they were welcome to remain under the Conservative banner.

I’m sure he will be attacked for that. He will be accused of promoting racists, homophobes and pro-lifers. Probably other things as well. In today’s climate of political correctness such a move could cost the Conservatives the election.

Laying aside the question as to whether this announcement is political suicide, the bigger question is, was it the right thing to do? I think so.

Andrew Scheer, by this move, is saying he believes in redemption and that people are capable of growth and change. He probably has a list of sitting MPs from other parties who have changed their minds on various issues over the years. He may use them as examples of how personal growth can and should be allowed in public life.

I would hate to be held to all the views I had at 16, especially the political ones. I was naive, to put it politely. Earnest, well-meaning and sometimes wrong.

By not automatically condemning those candidates with a questionable past, Andrew Scheer is showing that he understands repentance and grace, two words rarely found in politics. He will be pilloried for it, but it looks like he is trying to do politics differently, to allow people to grow to maturity rather than condemn them without a hearing.

I wonder if Canadians will decide it was a brave move, to actually talk to those who are perceived to have sinned, to see if they have changed? They may respect him for taking an unpopular stand. for not automatically demonizing people who may have made honest mistakes that they want to correct.

Have we reached the  point as a society where we are wiling to listen before pronouncing judgement? Scheer obviously hopes we have.

I wonder if that will help on election day?

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2 comments

  1. It happened to my wife first cousin. He has done some stand-up comedy and apparently it didn’t take long for someone to find an obscure video clip buried online. He was out. It was unfortunate because for him this represented a bold fresh start in his life.

    To make matters worse the same weekend the party also ditched another candidate who had been found doing something much more unbecoming. Sadly, internet search engines conflated the two stories.

    1. Matthew 7:1-5 comes to mind. I’m in favor of the best candidates, and there should be no acceptance of racism, homophobia or other prejudices. But people can and do change. If we can’t accept that, what does that say about us as a society?

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