Politicians are humans too – so how far back is too far for social media gaffes?

We are the closing days of one of the most exciting, contentious, and perhaps revolutionary federal election campaigns in Canadian history.

While I could go on at length about the various issues (and still might),  there is something else I want to address.

Throughout the campaign there have been numerous news stories about candidates resigning because of “inappropriate” comments made in social media.  Mostly Twitter and Facebook.

Ala Buzreba,  a 21 year old Liberal candidate resigned over vitriolic twitter posts made when she was a teenager.

Seriously….if we were all held accountable for things we said and did as teenagers we’d all be unemployed!

Maria Manna, another Liberal candidate resigned over Facebook posts she made questioning the 9/11 investigation several years ago.

The CBC has conveniently compiled a list,  you can see it here.

The point of this blog is not to defend,  or debate things that were said, posted, or implied.

Rather I want to suggest a different way of looking at this.

When someone steps up to a leadership role,  how far back do we do in someone’s social media history do we go back before opinions expressed become irrelevant?

Naturally there are cases where is absolutely appropriate to distance your campaign from someone’s expressed views or activities.   I will resist the temptation to link a few example of those.

But when such opinions were expressed in the distant past,   shouldn’t we look to more recent opinions?

Honestly,  I would rather cast my vote for someone whose made a few mistakes in the past and has clearly learned from them.

No one is perfect, and any one who has a blemish-less social media history is hiding something or doesn’t use social media.

When we deny someone an opportunity to step up,  someone who had the courage and intestinal fortitude to throw their hat into the ring,  we must do so carefully.

The other often over looked consequence of bringing up ancient history is that any one thinking of stepping up will think twice because the internet never forgets.

We could be losing out on having some excellent future politicians out of fear of having some past skeleton exposed.

I know from my own past that if certain things I’d said, and believed were brought to light that it would be mortifying.

The internet, being what it is would completely ignore any recent opinions I’d voiced, but focus on vile things I’d said as a teenager.

But those comments do not reflect the man I am today.   The very fact that I once believed them caused me to take a serious look at how I viewed the world,  and it changed me…for the better.

I know you’re dying to know what that was, but I’m not going to tell you. Unless you tell me yours….and if you say you don’t have anything like that in your past…you’re either young, or lying.  (and I’m only joking I don’t want to know your dark secrets!)

When assessing someone’s character we should look at the person they are today,   and not in the past.

My own opinion as to how far back is that it depends on what the person believes today…..even if they posted something stupid yesterday.

After all one of the traits I look for in a leader is the ability to learn from one’s mistakes, and admit when they’ve screwed up. That takes guts,  character,  and its rare in politicians.


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