Four years is a long time.
Just ask Democrats in the United States, Conservatives in Canada, right-of-centre voters in Alberta during the last term of government, or progressives now hunkering down and yearning for the 2023 provincial election.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, a result of turbo-charged traditional and social media landscape, but it’s certainly been aggravated by politicians and leapt upon by political strategists as a winning, albeit exhausting, game plan.
Replaced is the artful pivot that politicians once employed when policy failed or proved either unpopular or unworkable.
Now, wins are ultimate, and losses or pitfalls are still the fault of the other guys, detractors, previous governments or opponents. And to a large degree the public now views or at least accepts political wins as the goal of politics, not constructive policy or good governance.
Case in point, Wednesday’s vote on impeaching the president of the United States, hardly caused a real ripple in the public imagination.
Oh sure, sides were drawn and ramparts went up as the U.S. Congress decided on a rebuke for Donald Trump.
But is anyone surprised that America’s unconventional leader is in this position?
Either he’s guilty of using the authority of his office to further his political career (the Democrats’ position), or he has run afoul of opponents, who he claims are bent on removing him.
In the end, little may change after a proposed trial in the Republican-held U.S. Senate next month, so, ultimately, many will ask, what’s the point?
On will spew the volcano of controversy, the “fear and smear” tactics of “both sides” and the fact that election now means winner take all.
It’s not just a U.S. phenomenon.
There’s not a bit of backdown detected in Edmonton where the United Conservatives are defending a sea change budget and operating model despite a reversal in opinion polls.
That sounds similar in mission, if not effect, of the main criticism of the previous New Democratic government by the United Conservatives just a mere eight months ago on the campaign trail.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford won’t be shaken from his course, though governments in Manitoba and New Brunswick appear ready to get as good of a deal as they can get on carbon pricing.
Perhaps that’s a sign that in an age of hard bargaining stances, there’s still a deal to be made.
In their first term in Ottawa, the Trudeau Liberals were roundly criticized as being too insulated and to enamoured with an agenda.
Their recent demotion to minority rule is painted as rebuke that requires the need for humility.
Remember though the Harper government ushered in the modern era of omnibus budgets full of major changes in the fine print, and wouldn’t bend an inch afterwards.
So, the public is still to accept that politics are politics and there’s going to be a lot of political games played.
Many high-minded suggestions have been lobbed to correct the winner takes all attitude of government and increase the responsiveness of elected officials to put the public ahead of party or dogma.
Debate continues about ending the first-past-the-post electoral system, adding recall legislation to remove elected officials, or adding greater scrutiny and wider voting in nomination contests.
The fact is that until the public puts a premium on “being reasonable” and discounts increased polarization – and begins demanding such from their elected officials – the volcano will keep on erupting on a daily basis.