It is disappointing Premier hopeful, Jason Kenney, is floating the direct government model as a way to govern.
Referendums are simply a pretence that the little guy can impact policy decisions between elections.
In fact, it is a cop-out used by weak leaders to shirk their responsibility to govern and they often cause unimaginable harm.
The most obvious example today is Brexit.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron and his government didn’t have the guts to stand up to anti-immigration sentiments in their country, so they called a referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union (EU). Never dreaming their side would lose nor understand the new power of social media.
Today more than ever, referendums are decided online and are controlled by invisible weapons of bots, algorithms, dark money and international interference that spread half-truths, misstatements and lies.
Their purpose is to create strong emotional reactions, not reasoned discourse.
The Brexiters had a strong emotional card to play—leaving the EU would close the border to migrants flooding across the Channel and they were the reason ‘real Brits’ were being shut out of high-paying jobs and financial gain.
On the other side, Cameron and company had to sell the long-term prospective for remaining—corporations would leave, more jobs would be lost, consumer goods shortages would occur, commodity prices would rise and the buyout would be multi-billions of euros.
Cameron couldn’t pack his bags fast enough when his referendum failed leaving a fractured Conservative party, economic uncertainty and a Russian misinformation victory.
All because Cameron didn’t have the guts to govern on the hard issues and wanted the people’s backstop to cover his butt.
Today our once respected mother of representative democracy, Britain, is at a stalemate— dysfunctional and weak with a very uncertain future.
MPs in both the Conservative and Labour parties are equally split between Brexiters and remainers.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have even more reason to leave the Great Britain family as both overwhelming voted to stay in the EU.
The Conservatives have been taken over by the far right and the Labour Party by the far left. Although there was a glimmer of hope this week as 11 MPs left their respective parties to become Independents and the voices of reason.
In a representative government, we elect politicians to govern and judgement on their performance happens through the electoral process.
The issues of government are too inter-related and complex to be downsized to a social media sound bite. People are easily manipulated by psychologically- developed advertising and slogans (‘build a wall’) which successfully distracts from the true intentions of the promoters.
Referendums in representative governments are best defined as capitulation by politicians who want the power but not the accountability — ‘blame the people, they voted for it’.
Before social media, it often worked to a government’s advantage. Today, it doesn’t. President Putin of Russia, with the help of complicit Facebook and Google executives, is winning the war to shape our minds. It is incumbent more than ever that our elected leaders lead with policy, not emotions.
In politics, we have far too many bandwagon cheerleaders and not enough thoughtful thinkers and decision makers.
Stopping the silly talk of direct government, including referendums and recall legislation, would be a good first start.