Voting and shopping and stuff
In the Star's Insight section, Saturday and Sunday, you'll find some scribbling from me about Tim Horton's, the Tea Party and populism in general. The third and concluding part of the series will be in Monday's paper.
Basically, the stories are yet another way to poke into this issue of where politics and consumerism meet -- something that's interested me for a couple of years now, ever since I took a course in "material culture" at the University of Toronto while on a journalism fellowship. My awesome colleague, Chris Carter, has put a couple of links to other pieces I've done on this theme under my story on the web. You can find them here and here. Someday, I hope not too far in the future, I'm going to turn this interest into a master's thesis at Carleton University and also, fingers crossed, a book. (Why do I want to do another book, you may ask? Because I am insane.)
Political marketing is a relatively new study in Canada. One of the academics who's done some early work in this, Daniel Pare at the University of Ottawa, told me last year that political scientists are reluctant to tackle the issue because it seems a little too practical; too much about logistics and machinery.
Actually, though, it's a fascinating, cultural topic. I'm intrigued by the way politics and populism have got all caught up with the idea of "stuff" and things we buy -- how it's just easiest for our politicians to see us all as shoppers, concerned mainly with accumulating more stuff and getting sale prices on things. To me, it explains why environmental messages (consume less) can't get any traction in political debate and why anything that interferes with our ability to shop (higher taxes, the HST) is politically toxic.
If you are interested in this too, I can point you in a few directions. The best book I've seen so far is Lizabeth Cohen's "A Consumers' Republic." Some of the academics included in this series I'm writing are working on a forthcoming, Canadian-oriented book on political marketing in Canada: Alex Marland, Thierry Giasson and Andre Turcotte, to name a few. There's also a Facebook group on Canadian political marketing.
Giasson has recently been looking into how much the Canadian media reports on political marketing. The short summary of his findings is: not much. This series is my small and humble way of addressing that to some extent. Maybe by the time the next election rolls around, that will change. Personally, I'd make all these folks regular commentators on some network during any campaign -- it seems to me that voters should know what they're being sold and more importantly, why the politicians think they're buying.