Sunday, September 07, 2008

Finding the issue...

I thought I should put up something to mark the start of Canada's national election campaign.

But I have to admit that finding a passion for any party right now has been tough, given our recent focus on our despicable "human rights" codes and commissions, especially as they pertain to the regulation of speech and writing, and the apparent unwillingness of even the Conservative Party to make an issue of this restraint on free expression, and this politicization and cheapening of Canadian justice, this institutionalization in law of the victimary left.

Admittedly there are rumours that Harper and the Conservatives have given a warm reception to Ezra Levant when he has pleaded our case, but we would like to see more of Harper speaking out on what should be an ethical no-brainer. Maybe there is already some understanding, among various players, about what a Harper majority government will do. But the voter has yet little reason to believe it; and if politicians' public promises are often not kept, one should not fall for the conspiracy theorist's fanciful idea that private promises about political direction are more likely to be kept by leaders in opinion poll-driven democracies. In any case, Harper remains cautious and quiet as, unconscionably, the list of HRC victims grows.

Yesterday I felt I was with David Warren who wrote:
Regardless of his political persuasions, I doubt any reader is himself in doubt about the views of McCain and Palin on, say, abortion, or same-sex marriage, or the ramifications of the U.S. First Amendment. Messrs Obama and Biden have more “nuanced” views -- i.e. more likely to say one thing and do another -- and yet their own positions are clear enough, when the lights are trained on them.

If I were a woman, and the most important issue to me were the preservation of my unfettered legal right to kill my unborn children, I would have no difficulty in choosing the Democrat ticket. Whereas, up here in Canada, it really wouldn’t matter if I voted Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat, Bloc, or Green.

That is an extreme case, but the same goes for every other issue I can think of, including all the routine ones touching our daily lives.

For instance, all parties are committed to preserving Canada’s dysfunctional socialist health care system. All are committed to the continued heavy regulation of private enterprise generally, and to choking small business in particular with red tape. All are committed to maintaining a crippling tax burden, and a tax collection system with arbitrary and unaccountable powers of search and seizure. Moreover, in the name of the “global warming” imposture, all are committed to significantly extending the leaden hand of government micro-mismanagement into every aspect of our daily lives that may touch even tangentially on “the environment.”

And to take a subject of special interest to me, none is prepared to defend our country’s common-law heritage, and due process in our courts (especially our family courts). None will vindicate the most elementary rights of free speech and free press. None will lift a finger when journalists and many others are hauled before “human rights” kangaroo courts, and put under star chamber inquisitions, as if Canada were exactly the sort of country our fathers fought in two World Wars.
Then today I was reminded by Jay Currie of one of the main reasons we have such meek, almost cowardly, political parties.

Our essentially three- or four-party, "first-past-the-post", system insures that all parties do a lot of hedging, in the quest to maximize the number of MPs they can elect, lest one party finds a way successfully to outflank the other two.

Consequently, we don't have well polarized or refined debates. In a mature democracy, in a mature economy, as one would like to think Canada is, most issues would be discussed and refined to the point where there is a somewhat conservative and somewhat liberal position to be advocated. When political choices are well considered, there are rarely three distinct positions; and pretending there are only muddles the picture and makes harder the building of coalitions that can engage sufficient people to make clear what are the national preferences, i.e. the politically well-refined choices, and compromises, and to act on them.

In a large, sparsely populated country, national political parties have, at times, played an important role in bringing disparate Canadians together and getting them in conversation and in common cause. Again, this work is unnecessarily fractured by a three- or four-party system.

So, while I think Jay may be indulging in some wishful thinking when he declares this an election over the future of the Liberal Party - there remains a sizeable chunk of the Canadian electorate who will think themselves constitutionally incapable of voting for the Conservative party (being indebted to their long-stoked fears of the "right") and many of these will also think it below them to vote for the unworldly true believers in the NDP's age-old "progressive" rituals - I am nonetheless thinking this is an issue to truly get excited about: the mere possibility that this election will clarify the need for Canadians to solidify a two-party system.

Either the Liberals or the NDP has to go. At least I would like that idea to become commonplace. I hope many of those who won't vote for the Conservatives will come to a certain understanding, and will not let minds wander into fanciful Green fields.

Jay writes:
In reality this election will really be a referendum about whether or not the CPC under Harper deserves, or can be trusted, with a majority. I think they can and I think there is every reason to believe that a cross country consensus will give the CPC a thin majority.

This has, I am afraid, nothing to do with any endorsement of CPC policy; rather it is the reality that, a couple of years in, the Liberals have nothing at all on offer. The Green Shift is simply silly and a rather obvious tax grab. The idea that Harper is somehow George Bush in cunningly bad suits is a meme without wings.

To the converted, the Green Shift and Harper=Bush are truths as solid as the happy thought that 9/11 was an inside job. To the rest of us they are the last gasps of a party which has ceased to have a reason to exist.

Cynics have suggested that this election is about financially bankrupting the Liberal Party. I would not be at all surprised if they are right. It is time for the Liberal Party to end. It is time for Canada to have a left party and a right one. The Liberal Party is simply in the way.

The Liberals climbed on board the dying Green/Kyoto trope and, finally, have found the issue which could finish them. They will make assorted noises about national unity and assorted women’s issues and just how very scary Harper and the CPC are; but I suspect those noises will be their death rattle.

Canada has changed. We are no longer obsessed with a seemingly resurgent Quebec, Women are who they are and don’t need the feds to define them. Harper is rather dull; but not in the least scary.

For many of us, a confederation which allows provinces to seek their own destiny is a confederation we can support. Lock step centralism is an idea whose time has passed.

Most of all, with a bit of prudent management and a world hungry for our resources, Canada is poised to become a resource rich Switzerland. Rich, capable and very much its own nation.

The Liberal Party has, I suspect, outlived its usefulness. It is mired in identity politics, an unstoppable urge to take from the successful and give to the losers, and a belief in its own righteousness. Canada used to be a nation of losers. Now it is not. Canada used to think multicult was the Grail, now it doesn’t. Canada used to think the Liberal Party was the natural party of government, now that view is pretty much exclusive to the Toronto Star.


Eowyn said...

"Our essentially three- or four-party, 'first-past-the-post', system insures that all parties do a lot of hedging, in the quest to maximize the number of MPs they can elect, lest one party finds a way successfully to outflank the other two."

While the specifics may differ -- parliamentary versus congressional -- we here find much the same thing going on. The only difference is wrangling within two parties, versus different parties wrangling for influence among each other.

Disclosure: I haven't followed a Canadian election since Trudeau, and I regret it. My dear mom, of course, being Canadian, follows each one, but I've allowed other things to take precedence.

This time around, though, I'm invested. Probably because of our shared concerns (free speech being at the apex) -- but also because I'm discovering an affinity with both my real and adopted cousins up north, on a lot of levels.

My take on Harper is not that he's "Bush Lite," as has been accused, but that he and McCain both allow themselves to be swayed by the prevailing political winds. (McCain believes in man-made global warming. Sheesh.)

I do believe, however, that this election, on both sides of the border, is a kind of paradigm shift, socially speaking. Not since the 1960's have we seen such a fundamental rethink, in my opinion.

Bette Davis had it pegged: "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, I find myself as unenthused as you are. We can certainly sympathize with our American neighbors who saw their preferred candidates defeated in the two parties' tedious primaries.... or who feel they, too, are facing a similar Hobson's Choice.

Which is probably all for the best. It's got to be a lot healthier state-of-being for a democratic country if its citizens support a political party because it's viewed as the lesser of evils, rather than seeing it supported because it will "save" the country from the other(s).

That religiously leaning line of thinking may twist people into believing that ends justify means, making it acceptable to lie, cheat and steal, in the name of "rescuing" the country from the iron grip of one's opponents. It just sinks the nation into an even worse iron grip...

Politics should always be approached differently from religion, because of the central role that compromise must always play with politics.

I much prefer "talking politics" with people who are frustrated by who they are voting for, much more than someone who is enthusiastic about who they are voting for. Even if I disagree with their choice, it makes for a more honest conversation, and therefore usually a more enlightening one.

From the reading I've done over the decades on my beloved subject of American history, the significant percentage of begrudged support for candidates or political parties remains one of the unexplored stories that tends to slip under the radar.

We look back at older elections and what do we see: visuals from convention halls full of enthralled supporters, in a sea of signs bearing the candidate's name. Such historical snapshots make it easy to lose sight of the fact that most elections tended to be split 30-30-30 in degrees of enthusiasm, that is, about a third of the population adulating one candidate, another third worshipping the other, and the remaining third feeling unimpressed and unrepresented by either choice. (I wonder how much nose-holding went on in the voting booth during Nixon's landslide win in '72, for instance)

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

truepeers said...

Indeed, let's not forget Churchill's dictum that Democracy is the worst of systems, except for all the rest. And he had that figured out years before Nixon!

truepeers said...

Having said that, even within democracy there is need for paradigm shifts and I kind of hoping Eowyn is right that we are seeing one with the ongoing exhaustion of the 60s (or is it 30s) left.