Political Douchebaggery

What is the relationship between power and the douchebag?

At the micro-level, the traditional weight-lifting muscle-douche is a literal powerhouse of testorone; at the macro-level political power can cause extreme community-related douchebaggery.  The muscle-douche is foiled by the anti-douche (thank you Mr Slooth).  How can a community react to political douchebaggery?

Example For Discussion_ONE: the erection of a new Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) + the douchebaggery-actions of the Vancouver Art Gallery Board of Directors.

Firstly, I want to make clear it that this article is not a discussion of the VAG relocation and should not be interpreted as such (although this should be discussed soon).  Rather, this topic is an example of how douchey too much money or power in politics can be.

Moving the gallery has been on the agenda of the Gallery for many years.  Legitimate studies have been carried out, and conclusions have been drawn.  And then the douchbaggery starts:

  1. On April 28th, 2010 at the Fairmont Empress, the Vancouver Board of Trade hosts a ‘panel discussion’ on a new gallery.  Present at the ‘debate’:  representatives of the VAG Board of Directors Michael Audain + David Alsenstat // VAG director Kathleen Bartels // moderated by CTV news anchor Coleen Christie.  They promote the relocation of the Gallery to the site of the former bus depot/Larwill Park at W Georgia St and Cambie, 150 Dunsmuir St.  This site would be donated by the City of Vancouver (estimated value of site, $60 million).
  2. The VAG then pays a (rumoured) $80K for a double-wide, centre page spread in the May 13-20 issue of the Georgia Straight in which the move is presented as a done deal.
  3. Pissed off, an actual public debate is then organized by UBC, SFU and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada at Robson Square.  It is moderated by SFU’s Gordon Price and invited speakers are: Artist Ian Wallace // VAG BOD Michael Audain // Architect Joost Bakker // City Councillor Heather Deal // Vancouver Public Space Network’s Director Andrew Pask // moderated by SFU Professor Gordan Price.

At this event, a price tag of $350 million is mentioned for the new building.   $50 million from the province, $40 million in private pledges and the rest….TBD (most likely from the City, province or feds)

Did they think that an arrogant ‘it has all been decided’, douchebag attitude would endear the project to the media, City of Vancouver and interested citizenry?  $80K is more than most Vancouverites dream of earning in a year, let alone the prospect of spending another few hundred million dollars of taxes on yet another grandiose civic project (have we even cleared the olympic debt?).   How can they think ‘Panel discussions’ that are limited to the business elite increase the chances of gaining public support for a new publicly-funded gallery?  The douchebag at the club who says “like my muscles, want to come home with me?” has a better chance!!

Example For Discussion_TWO: the HST and the provincial budget deficit fiasco

Again, I want to make it clear that this article is not a critical discussion of the HST/budget deficit fiasco and should not be interpreted as such.

At the provincial level, another example of political douchebaggery:

  1. Pre-election budget figures indicated a $495 million provincial budget deficit as likely.
  2. Post-election budget deficit figures show a $2.8 billion provincial budget deficit.  Evidence suggests this second, larger figure was known prior to the election campaign.
  3. HST harmonization talks begin a mere three days after the BC liberal’s May 12th election win, after not mentioning it in any campaign material.  A bill making the transition official is then speedily passed.  Included in the HST harmonization are huge, upfront transfer payments from the Federal authorities.
  4. A massive, nearly unprecedented public outcry at all of this causes a former politician to head up a (successful-so-far) anti-HST petition.

Political douchebaggery at its best.  No public or industry consultation for a new tax?  Let’s do it, we have power (a majority in the legislature) and a massive public relations disaster of a budget.  The good citizens of BC will not care.

Let us be clear that these examples are process-related political douchebaggery, and that the individuals involved may or may not be douchebags. For discussion:

  1. Can we define political decisions that do not account for the public as ‘political douchebaggery’?
  2. Is political douchebaggery a direct consequence of too much power?
  3. Or do hard political decisions necessitate a douchebag attitude (even though we hate douchebags, we respect their dedication to the gym/hipsterism/whatever the current douchebag trend is)?
  4. Can you think of any douchebag political decisions that have been effectively anti-douched?  How can one fight political douchebaggery?
  5. Or is political douchebaggery simply bad advice from your communications consultant?

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