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The game of politics in Canada, the US and the local levels August 30, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, blogosphere, food for thought, public policy issues, random thoughts, Vancouver.
Tags: , , ,

I don’t follow US politics. At least, I don’t follow it seriously. This may be perceived kind of shooting myself in the foot and a serious blow to my credibility as a scholar. Not at all, and I’m going to prove you wrong. I am not the only non-US citizen who is NOT obsessed with the results of the US elections. I could scour Twitter and find those key tweets where people said “hey, can we please get over the whole Barack Obama/Michelle Obama/Hillary Clinton speech and move on to other topics?“.

I understand that there are many American ex-pats in Canada, particularly Vancouver. Many, MANY of them are my friends, and not only Twitter friends or blog-friends, but friends, FRIENDS. I can also understand that many Canadians or Canadian residents are interested in the outcome of the US elections because the US is such a key actor in Canadian life. One can’t ignore the US, simply speaking. That’s also the case in Mexico because the US has a strong influence on Mexican politics (both foreign policy and domestic politics).

You could easily build a case to entice me/convince me of why I should follow US politics. But the truth is, I’m rather disappointed by the lack of interest of exactly those who have been tweeting about US politics on LOCAL (and by local I mean, Vancouver politics). Want some proof? Use Summize (aka Search.Twitter.com) and find tweets about “Gregor Robertson” or “Peter Ladner”. 14 tweets on Gregor Robertson (two of mine, and full disclosure, I said I liked him). 8 tweets on Peter Ladner.

Now, do the same for any of the following keywords: Obama, HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton), National Democratic Convention (NDC). I just did a quick one for Obama and I couldn’t count the number of tweets (they were so many). I’m sure if I used another tool, I could find actual accurate stats on the emphasis that has been given to the US election.

As a scholar who has taught political science, I completely understand why this happens. As a resident of Canada, I can completely understand why this happens. As a resident of Vancouver and someone who has passionately embraced the city where I have lived in for more than a decade, I am dismayed. It looks as though the interest of Twitterers in local, municipal issues is minimal.

While I am absolutely not afraid of retaliation or criticism, I would seriously like to encourage people who live in Vancouver to think about, talk about and discuss the ideas of those people whose decisions will influence YOUR lives. YOUR local livelihood is at stake.

I am not at all asking my readers (particularly my Canadian readers, as I know that I’ve got quite a few from abroad) to stop thinking about or discuss US politics. It’s important. Heck, even I wrote about it (when I complained about the really sad fact that Obama and Clinton had to face-off, because they both would be breaking stigmas and old paradigms).

I just want people to take more of an interest in local politics. And no, it’s not because I’m now in the ballot of the Vancouver Election Contest. I had been ruminating this post since I started getting flooded with tweets about the US National Democratic Convention, the Hillary Rodham Clinton speech, the Barack / Michelle Obama speech, the Joseph Biden speech. Of course, I admire them. I have previously expressed my admiration for Obama and for Clinton. But it came to a point where I was just like “ok, this is a little bit too much“.

I do hope (and expect!) that my Twitter friends will do the same thing when the Vancouver mayoral election draws nearer and I expect (and want!) a barrage of tweets about the local elections. The best way to effect change is to get involved. And I want my Twitter and blogger friends to get involved in issues that will affect them the same or more than the outcome of the US elections.


1. raincoaster - August 30, 2008

Not to mention the huge amounts of passion and industry that are wasted on worrying about political events over which one has no influence. You could take the same amount of passion and engagement, use it right where you live, and change the world.

I saw this so often at Greenpeace. Protest something you have no hope of changing. Get people worked up about it. Go home feeling smug. And never risk, you know, actually changing the world. I dumped my last boyfriend over this “moral masturbation”. It’s rampant, and it is deliberately used by the government among others as a way to “bleed off” the urge to take action. The government was behind several of the protests we were invited to take part in, protests against the government…because it knew that by allowing people to protest laws that had already been enacted, it was effectively preventing them from protesting bills that were currently on the table.

Changing the world: It can be done. But first, you have to find out where you CAN act. Then you have to determine which actions to take. Then you have to follow through on them.

2. ddrucker - August 31, 2008

I just made a very cynical (and somewhat lighthearted) posting about the US elections. Essentially, I hold the US with high esteem, but the US population with very low esteem.

With that in mind, I am happy to change the world (and took the first step, I suppose, by voting with my feet after the 2004 elections). I can’t wait to be able to vote in local elections. Canadian citizenship is something I will try to get, and I hope you do so as well. Canada needs citizens like you, who will think about the issues and vote (and work) to improve the country. If we were talking about this in the US, I might not offer the same suggestion.

3. isabella mori - August 31, 2008

you are totally right, raul, and please keep reminding us about dealing with LOCAL politics. (and yes, i’m saying that even as i’m raging about ms. beauty queen palin).

as someone who grew up with the slogal “the personal is political and the political is personal” i’d say we also always need to go a few levels deeper. how we act and express ourselves is always, to some degree, a political act.

4. nancy aka money coach - August 31, 2008

hear, hear, Raul. As you know, I`ve posted about local political issues, but not all that much about the various contenders. You`ve inspired me, and wouldn`t it be world-changing in itself, if we could create enough ènergy“ around Vancouver politics that we turn out in record numbers (and with any luck, say Yes, We Can Too!)

5. Rebecca - September 1, 2008

I stopped paying attention to Vancouver’s city hall after Campbell – which coincided with the time I moved into town from Surrey… which is strange and perhaps coincidental.

I’ve been covering politics in some form or another in Vancouver for four years – just not *elections*. There’s a big difference. I talk about issues of the day, parks board issues, and also Surrey events – like Paul Hillsdon’s council run.

It’s also important to note that we’ll have a federal election on October 14th (or at least it’s anticipated to take place then). Vancouverites need not let themselves be bombarded with US politics (however important to int’l affairs) when there’s so much going on at home.

6. Urban dweller - September 1, 2008

There is far too much at stake in our municipal politics and also our federal politics to be worried about American politics. I must admit though Obama is a charismatic candidate and I sure as hell hope he wins. It would be great to get the Dems back in office, just for international reasons alone.

By the way Raul, congrats on your first week results in the contest. Keep it up and we’ll continue to highlight small business. Our most successful series thus far 🙂

7. Beth - September 2, 2008

When I saw that you said “I’m now in the ballot of the Vancouver Election Contest” I thought you meant you were actually running in the election! Like on Parks Board or something.

Looking forward to reading more about Vancouver politics here on HB604!

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