Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Michael Ignatieff: The Anti-Obama
While featuring an unfortunate partisan flourish in the opening seconds of this video -- a clip of the irresponsible "Just Visiting" campaign ads the Conservative party has recently deployed -- this video of Michael Ignatieff speaking to a Liberal party rally in Hamilton should remind many people that, while Michael Ignatieff is certainly a considerable step up from his predecessors of as leader of the Liberal party, he holds the same attitude that many Canadians find distressing about the Liberal party.
"We created the country you live in," Igatnieff says. "Never forget it."
For a party working so hard to emulate US President Barack Obama, this is the kind of thing that demonstrates that they simply don't get it. For anyone who's actually paid attention to Obama, to his rhetoric, and to the nature of his politics, this kind of language seems utterly alien to the political approach of the American President.
In insisting that the Liberal party created Canada -- at least in its modern-day form -- Ignatieff insists that the Liberal party is entitled to all the credit for the shape and form of modern-day Canada.
Within an argument like this no credit would be due, for example, to the NDP for Canada's public health care system. The NDP essentially forced Lester Pearson's government to implement public health care -- which Tommy Douglas had successfully introduced in Saskatchewan -- under risk of losing their government.
As someone who boasts about how he knocked on doors for "Mike" Pearson, Michael Ignatieff knows this full well.
With an argument like the one Ignatieff has used, John Diefenbaker would receive no credit for reforming immigration policies that had once been designed to minimize the influx of non-European migrants to Canada, nor would Diefenbaker receive any credit for writing the Bill of Rights.
Moreover -- and most seriously -- with an argument like the one Michael Ignatieff has used the Canadian people who be entitled to no credit for their own, day-to-day efforts in building Canada.
The doctor who healed patients within the universal health care program that the Liberals tried like hell to never create would receive no credit. The school teachers who educate Canadian citizens would receive no credit. The Canadian soldier who deploys to distant lands in support of the Canadian values of peace, order and good government would receive no credit.
Ignatieff's insistence that "we [the Liberal party] created the country you live in" is distinctly at odds with Barack Obama's empowering message of "yes we [together] can".
It speaks to an attitude of smug selfishness in which the Liberal party, as a "national institution" feels it's entitled as the "natural governing party" to forever dictate the direction of this country, and that even a ten degree change of political course should be considered intolerable simply because it upsets the Liberal party-approved status quo.
It is this attitude, if unchanged, that will permanently hobble the Liberal party and, so long as this party remains Canada's "natural governing party" will also hobble the country as a whole -- limiting the range of the actions that we as a country would consider, and maintaining one small elite group's belief that they are entitled to monopolize the marketplace of Canadian ideas.
One can say what they will about Barack Obama. One would never find him declaring that he, and he alone, is entitled to the credit for anything his administration may accomplish. One would never hear him echoing Michael Ignatieff, telling the American people, "we have built your country. Give us your votes, give us your tax dollars, and get out of our way so that we may set the stake of American politics."
Yet that is precisely how Ignatieff speaks to Canadians.
This is why, although the Liberal party will try, Michael Ignatieff could ever be Barack Obama.