Politicians walk a dangerous line when they use events to make political claims.
Canadian opposition politicians have been taken to pieces for linking Government cuts to transport spending led to the run-away oil train disaster.
“This tragedy reminds us,” it quoted its transportation critic, Olivia Chow, that “Conservatives have recklessly cut public safety,” to the tune of $3 million in the last year.
Politicians are desperate for publicity, and desperate to strike blows against their opposition to do it. This creates a kind of permanent arms race, adding new forms of claims and outrage everyday. It also creates an unrealistic frame of perception, where the act of opposition and the ideology worn at the time is the starting point for everything. So a terrible accident becomes a political act.
It’s fortunate for politicians that even if their claims are seen by the public, they aren’t taken seriously. People see the words as part of the banter of politics – heat and light signifying nothing.
With a claim-compliant media (they might not believe, but they print or go to air with the claims), politicians get no realistic feedback to help moderate themselves.
The stupidity of unreal political linkages is debilitating for politics, and for politicians. Shout too loud, too often, and see politics in everything, and people stop listening.
Successful politicians have a hearty grip on reality. Before speaking or thinking, their first test is; does politics matter here? The second test is; does my politics matter here? The final test is; can I make anything better here?.
Political speech that passes these tests will have impact because it is tangible, provable and meaningful.