Monday, September 23, 2013

On independent thought

It's for the best that the idle speculation and gossip about a single point of policy difference between Thomas Mulcair and Linda McQuaig have been put to rest. But let's make clear just how pernicious the "ZOMG!!! Candidate X occasionally thinks for herself!!! Clearly she must be muzzled!!!" line of political analysis actually is.

Simply put, there's absolutely no contradiction between:
- a party leader promising that a given policy that will form part of the party's platform; and
- a candidate holding the personal opinion that a particular different policy would produce superior outcomes, while nonetheless supporting the party in general.

In fact, I'd see far more reason for concern with a party so beaten down by its leader that it thought anybody who disagreed with any of its policies should be forcibly evicted from the tent. And as ugly as it is when leaders squelch dissent in the name of consolidating their own power, it's even more disturbing to see the media spreading that theme for no reason but to generate a story where none exists.

Now, the above isn't to say that McQuaig's advocacy for a more fair tax system isn't important. And I'll definitely hope to see her to use the political platforms held by a candidate and an MP to advocate for change both within the NDP and in the wider political system.

But that should serve as reason for journalists to seriously discuss the important policy questions she raises - not to write stories which implicitly or explicitly demand that intelligent political thinkers like McQuaig be silenced.

[Edit: Fixed wording, added link.]

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