To say this election is contentious would be an understatement. In fact, there is a level of hostility that is almost unprecedented – at least in terms of Alberta elections.
The name calling, damage to election signs and outrage from all camps has drowned out sober debate.
While we expect political campaigns to be hard fought and a little mud-slinging is par for any election, the public scrutiny of the candidates and election platforms has become too partisan to be productive.
Everyone has a party they support and a platform they agree with more than others, but the blind faith that seems to exist in people whether they support the NDP or UCP is frankly dangerous.
No party is above reproach and criticism no matter how much disdain is held for their opponent. It is the public's responsibility to hold elected officials to account and that is impossible with the level of identity politics that is currently being displayed by so many people.
This level of division is commonly seen when there is a perceived crisis or threat to certain demographics – in this case Alberta's sluggish economy, at least compared to what the province is used to. There has also been a high degree of social change in the province due to shifting demographics, which some people find threatening. The latter is harder to understand considering diversity and inclusion is something we should be working toward.
Amy Chua, a Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School, writes about this phenomenon in her book Political Tribes describing the divisiveness of politics in these situations as tribal politics.
She writes, "When groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them."
As a result, anything that questions the views of the tribe is dismissed and sometimes vehemently or violently attacked. This concept is not unique to the right or the left and is equally as dangerous regardless of political spectrum.
Passion for politics and wanting what is best for the province are two things every voter should have, but tribalism is actually polar to those concepts.
In fact, the level of blind support and echo-chamber-style discussion that results from tribal views can act in opposition to electing a government that is best for the province and instead elects one that is just best for a few.
Unfortunately, with the way parties have leaned farther and farther to the extremes of their political views, it can be difficult to find a balance that would truly work for most. The results of that can be seen at the federal level, where power continues to flip between the Liberals and Conservatives – systems tend to strive toward balance.
It is time to stop dismissing opposing views out of hand and time to consider that a balance of all views will be what is best for Alberta.
At the very least, we will have a province that doesn't divide neighbours against neighbours and families against families.