Who Terrifies Least

by Nic Olson

And I’m still terrified. I am not relieved.

Canadians who would normally condemn Stephen Harper are currently celebrating the election of a man who is little more than the sexier version of the Canadian Prime Minister. Both leaders carry a similar policy, but one of them you could potentially have a conversation with without wanting to stick cobs of corn in your earholes. Obama is a man we have seen hanging out with Jay-Z. Harper is a man that we would expect to see hanging out with a bank’s CEO, or country club golf pro like Shooter McGavin, or oil and gas investors, although we are skeptical that even these people would be able to carry on a conversation with such a potently awkward man. In Canada, as non-participants, we watch the Presidential Election as if it were the 100-metre dash. We cheer for who seems most approachable in sound bites and video clips. We cheer for those who our favourite celebrities endorse. We cheer for the most famous and recognizable face in the entire world. We cheer for the one who terrifies us the least.

And that is the problem. The lesser of two evils, people say. My idea of democracy doesn’t line up with voting for ‘who terrifies least.’ I can understand people’s relief in the election of the lesser of two evils, however I cannot understand people’s acceptance of the situation. The two-party system is terrifying. In the only podcast worth listening to, Escape Velocity Radio, Chris Hannah levels with Americans, saying that the two-party system is, “only one party away from the Soviet Union.” There were other options (Green Party, Justice Party, etc), recognized on ballots in only some states, and not recognized at all by major media outlets. Denouncing these as non-effective is denouncing democracy.

Sure, Nic. You read two websites about how Obama still supports the Keystone Pipeline, about how he still issues drone killings in the middle east and Africa, about how he passed the National Defence Authorization Act that allows the government to detain citizens without fair trial, and now you can’t take a minor win and leave it alone. You’ve gotta act smarter than you are.

Yes. I do. I am hard to please.

More and more I am learning that if you vote and do nothing else, then it is almost not worth your vote at all. Although Peter Mansbridge’s voice almost seduced me into staying upstairs on the couch, I came downstairs into my room and streamed DemocracyNow.org‘s coverage of the election. In it, Ben Jealous, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People said: “You don’t vote for someone to make a change,  you vote for someone who can make it easier for you to make a change. You don’t lose the responsibility of making change. We have to stay in movement mode.”

Although the man that terrifies me the most is not the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, he is still one of the richest most powerful men in that nation. Celebrating and expecting the less terrifying man to make all the changes is irresponsible. It is still the responsibility of the citizens to ensure that change occurs. That an oppressive two-party system is shut down, that Obama’s right-leaning policies are kept in check.

The lesser of two evils is still evil. The ‘least-worst’ is still the worst. The man who terrifies me the least still terrifies me. His manufactured image is pretty comforting. He is hard not to like; I’d go for a beer with him. But I’m still terrified for a population willing to settle, if that is actually what happened. Hell if I know.

What Ralph Nader Is Thinking About the 2012 Election