Friday, November 29, 2013

The Politics of Downtown vs Suburbia

I've now seen a few articles centred around the Toronto electoral map for the 2010 election. I post the map below, not to be inflammatory, but to offer a historical context to consider the problematic nature of the Right-wing "populism" in the outlying regions vs Left-wing "elitism" in the city centres.

This is map of the German elections of 1933, in which the Nazis won a majority. Dark brown represents the districts that they won outright; pale beige represents where they lost. Look at Berlin (#2 on the map) vs the surrounding regions. Without wanting to suggest that the actual politics are equivalent (they are decidedly not), I do want to suggest that there is a case to be made that the styles of political discourse seen in that 1933 German election (a decline into grievance- and fear-mongering, name-calling and contempt for reasoning) were comparable to those that have led to the similar looking maps of Suburban Ford Nation vs Downtown Smitherman supporters, or, in many Canadian cities, Downtown Liberals/NDP vs Suburban Conservatives. My point, really, is that an extremely divided electorate is, in aggregate, a stupid and even dangerous electorate. I hate the idea that we must fatalistically accept this situation. I believe that the major political imperative all of us face is to wrest the discourse away from sensationalist and ruthless demagogues, to find a way of acknowledging, articulating and addressing the feelings of grievance that drive many into the hands of those who are being elected on slogans rather than because of soundly-reasoned platforms. It may be infuriating that people vote that way, but they do. Mockery, however well-deserved, will not do the trick of reforming them; nor, evidently, will appeals to pure logic. Patiently reaffirming common interests in order to pull people back into some shared centre may be the best we can do.

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