Politics is, by nature, a dirty business. Mud is slung, palms are greased, promises are splashed around with flagrant disregard to reality and abandoned the minute the votes are counted.
It seems as you look higher up the political food chain, politicians at least maintain some modicum of the illusion of civility. Perhaps they simply have better advice at higher levels. Maybe years of experience make them better at dodging and flinging poop.
Perhaps it’s easier to get away with a kick to your opponent’s nuts if you do it while shrugging your shoulders and grinning sheepishly with palms exposed in a ‘I’m just a simple person who wants to help build a better world’ suit.
As the office to be won becomes less influential though-less grand, less prestigious-politicians have fewer resources to pour into election campaigns. At the civic level, political campaigns are more like one-man bands than well practiced and perfectly timed ideological orchestras.
Maybe that’s why civic politicians seem more likely to engage overtly in juvenile hijinx. All this makes me wonder why anyone in their right mind would subject themselves to the masochistic rigors of political life.
It’s also small wonder that every once in a while we read a story about a local politician in whom tensions among id, ego, and super ego wobble unexpectedly out of equilibrium. The chain flies off and they publicly flip out.
It’s funny strange (not funny ha ha) that when it comes time for a civic election, people don’t seem to care as much. Voter turnout is lower in provincial elections than in federal ones. Turnout is, in turn, lower in municipal elections than in provincial ones.
That’s especially counterintuitive in my mind because city politics has an arguably larger impact than any level of government on the day-to-day lives of queer people.
Vancouver has a municipal election coming up on Nov 19, and as painfully dry and boring as civic politics can be, it’s potentially the most critical election for queer people in Vancouver in recent history.
The queer community needs the cooperation of city council to approve business and liquor licences for bathhouses, gay bars and queer media. We need civic politicians who are receptive to our concerns about queer safety on the streets, in the parks and in the city’s public schools. We need city planners who will support our Pride celebration and the continued evolution and preservation of the identities of our queer neighbourhoods.
On a broader scope, we need civic politicians who defend the people who actually live here against the steamrollers of big business and big government. We need civic politicians who will one day move to provincial and national offices with the experience and the knowledge that government should be about people and livability and not about lobbyists and bureaucrats.
Finally, the current Vancouver city council is the most queer-friendly one we’ve had in recent history and it’s the only level of government that isn’t “Liberal.” We have to preserve that.
At the end of the day we need the best politicians we can find. It’s not simply a matter of finding a sucker who will suffer the slings and arrows of public life and represent us fairly well some of the time. It’s also a matter of preventing those who are in politics for purely base reasons of power, prestige and personal gain from getting their grubby hands all over our future.
It’s a matter of stopping socially conservative politicians from taking office because they are simply not qualified to represent queer people and they will only make our lives more difficult. When we queers don’t take an active role in selecting who represents us, we are conspirators in our own sabotage.
Even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about municipal politics, if you’re queer, please vote in this election. It will only take a few minutes and will have an effect on your daily life for years to come.