Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 26, 2010
Uniting for political power makes sense
Training program is designed to help participants increase their influence
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
When we were young children, my brother and I used to play 'election' with our stuffed animals. Our animals gave speeches, debated, and eventually cast votes. It might seem strange that, while I would go on to work in politics and my brother to medical school, one of his animals ('Timo the Dinosaur') would win every time.
Our childhood games are now a fond memory; however, I am happy to report that I have applied the lessons I learned at that time and have come to some interesting conclusions about human politics.
My brother's animals always won because they voted as a block. My animals had a more nuanced approach. They would vote for different candidates, and some would even vote for my brother's animals.
I had them vote this way because I, as a youngster, thought that this was the proper way to do politics. In my child's mind, politics was an individual game and not a team sport. Working together and voting as a block seemed inappropriate. Because, however, my stuffed animals did not treat politics as a team sport, none of them ever won.
As a practising Catholic, I am just as keen on seeing more practising Catholics (or those who are philosophically aligned with us) in elected office as I was as a child in seeing my stuffed animals ruling over the bedroom which my brother and I shared.
Catholics bring a unique sensibility to political discussions: we seek to combine moral traditionalism and compassion, subsidiary and social justice, and truth and charity. We are supported by a long and deeply intellectual social tradition. But in contemporary Canadian politics, we are (like my stuffed animals) not achieving substantial success on many of our most important issues.
I would posit that we are not making headway because we are making the same mistake that I made as child; that is, we perceive politics in the wrong terms. We encourage people to participate and to do their duty, but we often do not work together to identify candidates who share our values and then actively support them.
There is nothing to stop lay people from working together to support like-minded political candidates, but many do not know how to do so effectively.
Good political activism is not taught in schools. It is not something which can be learned by watching political television shows or reading the newspaper. We need to find ways of increasing our influence, but also need to be trained by political insiders on how that works practically.
In an effort to begin to fill this gap in training, the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies (CCPS) recently launched a new Mobilization and Training project. The CCPS is built around a set of values which are in line with Catholic social teaching - we are committed to promoting, for example, the intrinsic value of all human life and respect for the natural family.
The purpose of this program is to help you and members of your church increase your influence. We recognize that churches generally do not have the capacity to train people for political activism around moral and social justice issues. We are, therefore, available to come to your church to present a seminar on effective citizenship and mobilization. I invite those who are interested to check out our website at www.policystudies.ca.
Our philosophy is simply - a small group of people, working together to support like-minded candidates and armed with the right strategic knowledge, can make a significant difference in Canadian politics. We can start to win on abortion, do more to help those in need and stand up for our civil rights against the encroachment of human rights commissions.
We need to become more effective; because, unlike the campaign to unseat Timo the Dinosaur, real politics is not just for fun. The winners dictate the moral values by which society will be governed; so, winning is important.
(Garnett Genuis is the director of mobilization and training with the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
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