Saturday, September 12, 2009

Harper's contempt for political adversaries mirrored in present Republican behaviour

Update (7:50 p.m.) below.

An op-ed that provides some food for thought today for Canadians too as we witness the beginnings of what appears to be an electoral season: "The extreme Republican Party." It analyzes the Republican party's beliefs and how disconnected from reality they are, e.g. "...a majority of its followers either believe that President Obama was born in Kenya or aren’t sure, believe there is no such thing as global warming, believe that the House health care bill calls for death panels to euthanize senior citizens, and believe that Obama is responsible for our economic woes (61 percent!)." The author looks to other countries by way of comparison and wistfully notes that generally, there are "serious" parties in other democracies, unlike the present day Republican variety. One line stood out in this to me:
Let’s not mince words here: We now have an entire political party that is not only dedicated to the mediocre. It is dedicated to the nearly deranged.

We are long past the time when we can pretend there are two serious political parties in this country - one right of center and one left of center. That is the situation in virtually every other industrialized country. England has its Tories and Labor, France its Gaullists and its Socialists, Germany its Christian Democrats and its Social Democrats. These parties generally don’t agree on policy; they are, after all, political adversaries. But they are all serious, they all represent large constituencies and interests, and they all operate from a set of shared values, not least of which is that the other side is not treasonous or evil or ill-intentioned; it just has different prescriptions for solving problems. Typically, the differences between right and left in these countries are fairly small because in most democracies most people agree on the really big stuff. Even Tory leader David Cameron has vigorously defended England’s National Health Service.

But that is not the case here.
One could argue, having this week viewed the video of Stephen Harper speaking to his faithful where he spews epithets in characterizing his political adversaries that similar to the Americans, we too actually have a bit of a problem on our hands. The strain of illegitimacy that Republicans use in attacking their opponents is infesting our politics too. What else are we to think when we have a political leader who is caught on tape demonizing his opponents. Using ads to question the personal motivations of the Liberal leader, sinisterly impugning intentions. We have a leader who is actively trying to suggest to the Canadian people that a Liberal government is something to fear, that will cause "long-term damage." Who is putting to the Canadian public untruths, running ads that are patently false on this coalition issue. It's something to behold.

One other aspect of this column stood out, and while the Republicans are much more far gone in their disconnect from reality than Canadian Conservatives, there's a grain of truth here too:
The country needs a serious right-of-center party - one that has real ideas, one that can engage in a serious debate with the Democrats, one that has a sense of a larger national purpose beyond winning the next election, and one that can actually attract more Americans to its banner because it has earned their trust, not because it knows how to polarize.
The echoes are a little too eerie these days.

(h/t to a regular emailer for spotting this one)

Update (7:50 p.m.): Constant Vigilance adds perspective:
History has cycles. The reactionary energy built up during the 60's and unleashed by the ongoing economic shocks of the stagflationary 70's on aging Boomers was at it's peak during Reagan, Mulroney and Thatcher. The scars those three and others inflicted were bad enough but they set the stage for the nadir that was the Bush era and is the Harper embarrassment. Here is hoping that Obama represents the beginning of the end of this low in the current cycle. And that Canada can maintain the momentum in society's swim to the surface.