Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Panic! Panic! Panic Panic Panic! Redux

Stephen Harper has remarkable power over progessives

It's clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accrued a great deal of power over Canadian progressives. The apparent unwillingness of the Canadian people to rise up en masse and cast off the Conservative Party has begun to so overwhelm them with despair that they continue to dream up crazier and crazier schemes in order to unseat him.

The most recent is a proposal to merge the Liberal Party and NDP into a single party, proposed by Young Liberal President Samuel Lavoie.

"What scenarios are left to impede Harper from radically altering the face of our country in a way a majority of Canadians don't agree with?" Lavoie asked. “Basically uniting all the federalist progressives in some way, shape or form...”

Which means that Lavoie would exclude the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- unlike former Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, who attempted to mortgage the government of Canada to them.

Apparently, however, Lavoie seems to think that a pair of political parties that can't get together enough to oppose changes in Canada that he insists the majority of Canadians don't agree with (although one would certainly like to see some evidence for this alleged disagreement) can get together enough to form a single party.

Lavoie's apparent excuse for this lack of opposition is that it's allegedly impossible.

“At the end of the day I am firmly convinced that the current political landscape makes it all but impossible for a progressive party to severely diminish Harper’s ability to do whatever he wants in Ottawa on its own, let alone win a majority,” Lavoie added. “That is why I support some kind of collaboration/cooperation amongst Canada’s progressives, excluding the Bloc.”

Contrary to what Lavoie may think, it's actually rather easy to oppose a government: vote against them. Seems simple enough to most Canadians.

But this is the amount of power Harper has acquired over Canadian progressives. They won't vote against him in Parliament, and they can't convince enough Canadians to vote against him at the ballot box. In fact, Harper continues to gain strength in the polls despite some periodic setbacks.

Echoing Lavoie's ideological panic is Colin Horgan who, along with Heather Mallick, decided that Canadian media weren't left-wing enough for his tastes and has instead opted to whine about Canadian politics in a British newspaper. In an op/ed article appearing in the Guardian Horgan complained that "progressive Canada is slipping away".

His central complaint is the Canadian government's decision not to include abortion funding in their maternal health package.

He wrote: "That is to say, the Tories are not about to allow women from developing nations the same kind choice that women in Canada have. Why not?"

It would be because abortion is not legal in many of the countries where Canada will be providing health aid for mothers. Also, it's right there in the word "maternal".

Horgan envokes Frank Graves' culture war advice to the Liberal Party, insisting that the increasing popularity of conservative ideas and ideals in Canada is, itself a culture war.

"The thing is, Graves's comments, while somewhat incendiary, trampled upon a silent rift in Canadian society – one that Harper is currently exploiting: the rise of social conservatism in a nation that has historically viewed itself as socially progressive," he wrote.

By this what Horgan clearly meant is that he has thought of Canada as being traditionally socially progressive, and that he would prefer that it stay that way.

But the silliest portion of Horgan's argument holds that Harper is waging a culture war by appealing to centre-right voters who had traditionally voted for the Liberal Party, but had their issues largely ignored:

"What this means for the average Canadian is that, slowly but surely, the Conservative Party is changing the framework of the national debate," Corgan wrote. "Harper's Tories are picking their issues carefully, and appealing to those centre-right voters who have historically sided with the Liberals. The culture war that Graves alluded to is effectively already under way."

One must wonder if Horgan is simply confused about what a culture war actually is. A culture war -- as porposed by Graves -- is not conservative parties appealing to conservative-minded voters. A culture war is waged by one political party attempting to stake a claim to mainstream Canadian values, and describe their rivals as un-Canadian if they don't share those values on a wholescale basis.

In other words, the very act that Horgan himself committed within his op/ed column.

But this is what Canadian progressives have apparently been driven to by a combination of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and their own ideological vanity: they continue to attempt to whip Canadians into a panic over the an alleged threat to Canadian values, mostly because they dislike the idea that those values could ever change.

It's a moral panic writ large in political terms. And it's panic that is driving individuals like Samuel Lavoie and Colin Horgan to dream up radical schemes for an ideological quick-fix.

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