Pettiness: the Defining Quality of Politicians?

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I regret to say that in the 21st century so far, I see little gravitas and profound pettiness among politicians and political operatives. With a dozen or so exceptions, the gang is not up to the challenge of integrity.

Last night I watched the movie The Contender [see here and here]. Nice film. Full of manipulation, ego, opportunism, a light dose of self-righteous McCarthyism, gender politics and an appeal at the end for people to choose integrity when it’s just as easy not to.

It was made in 2000, so it missed the decade of cynicism, lies and despair that we’ve seen, but even if it were a worse movie it still provided a litmus test we can use to determine if someone in politics [elected or otherwise] is worth your time. Just how petty are they?

Cynicism and self-absorption are one thing, but real pettiness encompasses those and other discouraging traits.

So if pettiness is currently the defining quality of politicians, we are truly in a shitty state. And is it any wonder why so many people of substance are avoiding the traditional political arena, choosing to make a difference elsewhere.

Don’t expect voter turnout to start climbing back up any time soon. The people seem to be using the pettiness scale already and I don’t expect they’ll stop.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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3 thoughts on “Pettiness: the Defining Quality of Politicians?”

  1. i write this in offering up a pettiness litmus test for people to use in evaluating the integrity of politicians, so i didn’t really intend to write a list of the naughty and nice…

    that said, many politicians i’ve met/studied rate high on pettiness, more than half for sure and certainly not all. i stand by my dozen or so exceptions.

    and i’d say, yeah, at all levels: municipally, provincially and federally.

    more so than other groups? that’s a tough one. generally, yeah, particularly when you factor in the polls asking people what groups they trust most/least, politicians seem to compete with used car salesmen much of the time for the bottom slot.

    but you should check out that movie and see its plot/case study in petty versus integrity to see how it plays out, then compare to real life. i used to do the same with the west wing every week.

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