Identity shapes values, making the political personal

Federal parties and their individual supporters need to own up to empty gestures

According to Aysha, fiscal and social policy should not be viewed separately.

Election season in an (unofficially) two-party democracy is always nerve-wracking. The argument constantly resurfaces over which party leader is stronger, or even the lesser of two evils. Political rhetoric thrives on duality. Even election issues themselves seem to be often broken down into two categories: fiscal and social policy.

These two worlds are viewed as separable, and can even be considered mutually exclusive. It’s generally believed that economic policy and government spending should be hotly debated in business-focused spaces, whereas civil rights and social justice are for the fainter of heart. The marginalized groups and youth that mobilize to protest are increasingly viewed as overly emotional and insufficiently educated.

After all, passionate activists and stuffy number-crunchers are known to be polar opposites as people.

But this assumption that money and rights are separable is a dangerous construct. It’s what enables the right wing to get away with claiming they’re fiscally conservative and socially liberal. 

The fact is, social reform isn’t possible without financial backing. Allowing politicians to claim they’re in favour of social progress without understanding the economic strategy behind their words allows them to unfairly gain votes from vulnerable groups they might not really plan to protect.

On both sides of the political spectrum, party leaders in Canada frame themselves as champions of social justice. Even most provincial Conservative Parties don the “progressive” label. While cases of large-scale direct discrimination do persist in this country, discourse surrounding those issues is usually polite.

Politicians from every party outwardly support progressiveness through obliging unspoken requirements like attending Pride events, participating in cultural programming, and emphasizing a commitment to truth and reconciliation.

But these are empty gestures when no mainstream political leader would ever commit to increasing taxes in order to fund the necessary social spending to dismantle systemic discrimination.

Trudeau has infamously avoided even using the word “tax” to describe his carbon pricing strategy, and he’s suffered in the public opinion for it. Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer has made reducing taxes a core element of his platform.

Unsurprisingly, the leaders have both promised tax cuts across all income levels.

Meanwhile, necessary upgrades to water systems in Indigenous communities haven’t been properly funded, and this country is becoming increasingly difficult to enter for those who need it the most.

Going beyond the federal campaign, the idea that we can verbally support equity without opening our wallets to support the needs of marginalized groups is just an excuse.

In a university setting, where we’re encouraged to critically consider our roles in a nation that’s only becoming more diverse, socially liberal students might ask Conservative students to explain their values. These Conservative students may be accused of being racist, homophobic, or sexist, because of their perceived support for potentially discriminatory actions made by Conservative politicians.

These allegations can certainly make Conservative students feel guilty or isolated. To counteract this, some Conservative students have claimed we should separate the political from the personal. A Journal opinion piece from Sept. 14, 2018, saw one student explain—after feeling attacked for her conservative political views—that she’s not “betraying [her] gender” for her Conservative Party allegiance. She says she embraces the free market, not hateful ideals.

Clearly, Conservative students feel they shouldn’t be deemed unprogressive due to their partisanship, and shouldn’t be tied to all the actions of the Conservative Party.

But the political is the personal. It’s fair to hold individuals accountable for the impact made by the people they voted for, regardless of their actions outside of election season.

As much as attending protests and participating in equality initiatives can shape you into a tolerant person, above all else, you speak with your vote. When you vote for a party that only claims to support equality and social justice, or even outright furthers discrimination, you invalidate the support that could go toward vulnerable groups. 

It doesn’t matter what you do in your free time, where you volunteer, or if you insist to your racialized friends that you wish Queen’s was more diverse. You support the actions of the party you vote for. When the party you voted for actively suppresses minorities, you’re involved in spreading intolerance.

Certain political identities can bring up difficult feelings and experiences for anyone facing oppression toward one or multiple facets of their identity, like gender, ethnicity, or religion, for instance.

Many women and minorities can’t separate their emotions from an election. They hold a very personal stake in political outcomes. They’re the ones who fight to keep their basic human rights—to be able to access clean water, pay for school, or even remain in this country, which prides itself on multiculturalism.

The political is the personal.

Insisting that it isn’t, or that words are enough, does not excuse intolerance.

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