Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stephane Dion & the Giant Peach

Stephane Dion should stop talking about elections. No sooner than his leadership was shown to be an unmitigated disaster, he is back on the scene threatening to force another election. Now you might say that this is a fair response to Stephen Harper's claim that his government will treat every bill as a measure of confidence, and you'd be right. But the problem is that the Conservatives have come very close to a majority, increased their share of the urban vote, have a competent leader, and enjoy comparatively lots of cash to spend. In short, Harper can afford to be bullish, and Dion can't.

I can't help but wonder whether or not Dion's rediscovery of his courage has something to do with the American election. There's a strange meme floating about that Canadians will vote left when our American cousins do the same. So then, the logic follows that it would be in the best interests of the NDP and the left of left faction in the Liberal Party to push for an election with Canada is basking in the post-election euphoria (that I will now call Obamarama). I'm guessing that people are looking at the Chretien years that coincided with the Clinton years. But what about the Chretien/Martin years that coincided with the Bush years? Chretien spent 7 years in power with Clinton in office, and Chretien/Martin had 5 years with Bush in office. Moreover, Chretien's 7 years came as the conservative movement imploded and ceased to be a significant political force. It wasn't until 2006, when anti-Bush and anti-conservatism was at it's heyday, that the Conservatives managed to make some progress in Canada. So yea, there's a lot wrong there.

Dion should really be focused nursing the Liberal Party back to health. The Liberals are broke and are facing another bitter leadership race. The most palatable and centrist candidates, John Manley and Frank McKenna, have dropped out. This leaves Bob Rae and his NDP ghosts and Michael Ignatieff and his advocacy of torture as the remainging two choices with the suitable national exposure for an effective leadership. Gerald Kennedy will probably take this time to rebuild his image, and Ujjal Donsanjh, who barely won his riding, has perhaps the worst political history of anyone in Canada. And then there's the question of money, which the Liberals don't have.

Back in business.

Finally! Two important things in my life have ended this week: The nauseatingly-long American election and the nauseatingly-long move to a new home. I am happy for the conclusion of both.

The soul-searching that follows an election has always interested me. As anyone who has participated in the democratic process can attest, it is one of the most revealing experiences at the national and individual level. The Democrats, sore losers of the previous two presidential elections, finally have their man in the executive. The Republicans, sore losers of this election, finally can look to close off a two year slide toward electoral defeat.

Sarah Palin returns to Alaska both a nationally reviled and beloved figure. Reviled by her political opponents and the bitterest losers of the McCain camp, beloved by social conservatives and, oddly enough, Lorne Michaels. Of note is the anonymous abuse she's faced since Tuesday from members of McCain's team. Dirty cloaks and rusty daggers I call it, when a faceless and remarkably classless accusation from your own side conveniently finds itself into the national media.

These accusations from McCain's team should surprise no one. Not that these things are uncommon after losing an election - political parties usually act this way -, it's that it is so indicative of the people McCain chose to run his campaign. These folks know, as the rest of conservative movement knows, that they really blew it. Picking an unprepared candidate for VP was one thing: Most people involved in these campaigns spend months (if not years, in Obama's case) getting coached through interviews and buffing up their policy credentials. What really hurts these folks is that after Palin finally wrestled free of their control, she ran a much more effective campaign. Her worst moments came under McCain's tutelage, her best as her own master. To be sure, if Palin chooses to continue on in national politics, she will have to rebrush her image. And that will take some time, which is something that she has in droves.

So it must be curtains for McCain's advisers, I assume. Their mishandling of Palin, Jeremiah Wright, the financial crisis and the Ayers/Acorn scandals made Obama's campaign that much easier. Of course they're eager to push the blame to Palin, which is a shame: Palin was the sole reason the conservative base started to gain interest in the outcome of this election. Most, if not all the failures of the McCain campaign were completely independent of the Alaskan governor. And even if they disagree with that assessment, why on earth should your vice-presidential pick have that much influence on the fortunes of your campaign? Obama chose an equally questionable candidate in Joe Biden, and managed to keep Biden's several gaffes from become a major interference.

For Obama, the time for careful play is now at hand. It should be remembered by my fellow Canadians and Europeans that Obama's election does not represent a social or political shift to the left in America. Blacks and Hispanics, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama, also voted overwhelmingly for the bans on same-sex marriage. In fact, in all newly blue states, the Democratic senators and congressmen campaigned on socially conservative, populist policies. Hence the need for Obama not to politick the way he has and to honour his own 'promise' to develop a more harmonious political environment. There might be little chance of this happening with a Democrat controlled Senate and House of Congress, but it's imperative to the success of his presidency that he does. Soon the energy and euphoria of this election will subside, and the harsh, ruthless knife of modern day mass-politics will come down.