Whether or not to be aggressive in politics

There’s been a bit of buzz about the attack ads run by the Sask party (that’s the provincial right-wing party) against the four NDP provincial leadership candidates… 5 months before the leadership will be resolved. In the comments to a Maclean’s piece today, Ron Waller says:

The basic rule of thumb is to stand up against all attacks (“swiftboating”), no matter how absurd. Ignatieff and Dion proved playing the role of punching bag is not the best approach to instill public confidence in one’s leadership capabilities…

I agree with this as far as standing up to attacks is concerned, but what I’ve seen happen to some degree is an aggressive response that comes right back swinging. Not from all candidates, mind you, but it’s been there. So what I’m beginning to wonder is if we really want our politicians to attack each other. Does attacking poll well? Is that why we’re doing it? When we’re in a majority government, there’s little for the minority to do but yell and scream (except, of course, that they sit on parliamentary/legislature committees, where they can do quite a bit of good work). 

Are our elected officials attacking each other because they’re powerless to do anything else? Does a reasoned dialogue simply get lost? I’m honestly hoping not. When people come out swinging against sitting officials (or even candidates), I tend to see them as desperate or powerless. I kind of hope that’s what everyone else sees as well. Perhaps if we let them know, they’d be more careful about their tone.

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