Canadamerican Politics: An EM Theory

October 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm 6 comments

Photo: Barbara Woodley

Welcome to Saturday, October 25th.  On this day in 1993, Canada held a federal election.  Just four months earlier, Kim Campbell assumed leadership of The Progressive Conservatives, the party that was in power at the time, making her the first female Prime Minister of Canada ever.  Yayyyy!! Uhhh, yayy?

While it could certainly be deemed some sort of feminist victory for a woman to have won the leadership of a federal political party, and a conservative one to boot, Ms Campbell wasn’t actually elected Prime Minister.  We don’t do things that way.  As I said, she assumed the role because her party was in power at the time.  Then, she called a federal election.  And then, just four months later on this day in 1993, the Progressive Conservatives were wiped off the face of the Canadian political map, losing 149 seats of the 151 they held.

What does this have to do with the politics of race and gender, The Garden of Eden and Kurt Vonnegut?  Find out, after the jump.

Did Kim Campbell lose the election because she was a woman?  That reductionist oversimplification is as ludicrous as anyone suggesting that Obama is going to win because he’s black. Also, in Canada you don’t ‘pull the lever’ directly for your choice for Prime Minister:  you elect a Member of Parliament in your local riding, and the leader of the party whose MPs obtain the most seats gets to be PM.  So, even if people were voting against Ms Campbell because of her lady bits, we could never really know.

This is another reason why the federal political landscape in Canada–and Canadian government as a whole–is much less polarized, less personal, less black-and-white (metaphorically, not literally) than in the U.S..  We are fragmented, yes, especially now and especially on the Left.  But we are not diametrically opposed and therefore irrevocably divided. Even during what, by Canadian standards, could be construed as a negative, bitter campaign, we rarely got down to the kind of mud-slinging, vicious personal attacks and deplorable levels of racist, sexist invective that we have witnessed in the U.S. and that will, inevitably, leave half of the country in deeply entrenched opposition to the other half.

So why am I thinking of Kim Campbell this dull, grey Saturday morning?  Well, I’m thinking of Ms Campbell because I’m thinking of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama:  two candidates who represent–if you choose to interpret it that way–a choice for those who are looking to make a choice based on gender or race.

I love pigs. Real ones, lipstick or not.

Yes, yes…you can argue that it’s not a fair parallel; people are not choosing the VP, they’re choosing the top of the ticket.  In certain arguments, I’d say that is true.  But consider this:  McCain picked Palin–against what we can only believe were his personal convictions–to galvanize the base (scarily opportunistic and downright dangerous); lure any disaffected Hillary voters who would vote gender-over-platform (scarily stupid and sexist); and put some sex appeal on the ticket to counteract his old, white man and Washington-insider/friend of Bush image (terrifyingly dangerous and irresponsible, and the real reason for $150K from the party coffers for Evita Lenscrafter’s* clothes, hair and make-up).

* I can’t take credit for that nickname; it was coined by–I think–The Baroness over at gawker.com.  Every time I see it, I laugh almost until I pee.

And I’m thinking of Ms Campbell too, because I’m thinking of two parties–Campbell’s PCs and Palin’s GOP–that have imploded. I’m watching the Republican party in the U.S. being torn apart by forces within and I’m wondering if (be careful what you wish for) a reverse chain of events could occur such as those that befell The Progressive Conservatives in Canada.  It started with the first domino falling, i.e., the massive electoral defeat of Kim Campbell, which allowed for the rise of a competing conservative faction in Western Canada, led by a guy named Preston Manning–a guy whose political stripes were deemed extremely far right but who really falls somewhere between McCain and Palin, most likely.   A guy whose Reform Party became the official opposition in 1993, and after some political bed-hopping and marriages of convenience including a name change to The Conservatives (nothing progressive about them), just two weeks ago reclaimed another minority government under the leadership of Manning’s chief political strategist in 1993 and Prime Minister since 2006, Stephen Harper.

In the words of one of my favourite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes.

It’s tempting to see, as I reach for a punny and apt allusion, Campbell and Palin as two Eves who brought death into their respective party’s gardens.  Only Campbell fits the bill; she was an inadvertent medium of destruction.  Instead, I see Palin as the snake.  Not a barracuda, not a pit bull, and most definitely not a lipsticked pig.  A snake, with the full biblical connotations (which she would take literally) and the implication that she is not a mere unwitting conduit of evil but is willingly allowing herself to be used by others as an active instrument of it.

Here’s my theory.

McCain will lose this election.  That’s a pretty safe prediction to make.  But, it will be close, much closer than it should be because conservatives of any common sense or intellectual rigour are absolutely disgusted by the Palin pick and the ugliness of the campaign.  Opportunism and ugliness that John McCain has allowed to happen, has in fact made happen through pandering to the basest elements of the Republican base and of U.S. society.  After all is said and done, the division that McCain has created within the Republican party by his own hand will be his legacy and his shame.  And the divisions that he has created in his country will be Barack Obama’s to heal.

This, I think, is the true test that Obama will face, and not the one that Joe Biden has so carelessly referred to. Obama’s first test will be to rebuild U.S. citizens’ trust in one another, while he builds their trust in him and in their government and before he regains the trust of their allies.  I have no doubt he can do this. He is the best candidate to do this in, possibly, the last century with exception of Bill Clinton and that reason alone is enough to justify voting Democrat.  I love the irony:  vote for Obama because he’s the only one who can regain the trust betrayed by McCain (and Bush et al.).

The country will survive, of course.  The Republican party, I’m not so sure.  It will be fascinating to watch what happens after November 5th, when–by all the indicators available right now–the Senate, the Congress and the President will all be Democratic.  I don’t expect that it is possible, given the electoral differences between Canada and the U.S., that the Grand Old Party will cease to exist as The Progressive Conservatives did.  Instead of mutating into a new and stronger party shaped by external forces,  they are going to have to remake themselves from within.  But who will be left to do that?

If you take this to its logical conclusion…Palin and her supporters will.  Those who forced John McCain’s hand and convinced him to put her on the ticket.  Those who even as they were choosing him to lead the party, were conspiring against him to usurp his moderate agenda.  Those who have taken the U.S. into an illegal war, and those who have sanctioned torture in contravention of international law. Those who have squandered the U.S.’s reputation and resources, and put their own citizens in harm’s way at home and abroad,  both physically and financially.  Those who have so grossly subverted the values of honesty, integrity and intelligent debate and elevated in their place the practices of deception, opportunism and hate-filled rhetoric.

The less extreme individuals in the Republican party have now either surrendered all moral, political and personal power and been left impotent to effect change; or, they have defected to the Democrats.  The lunatics are running the Republican asylum and they are about to take over.  Leading them will be Palin…look for her in 2012 running against Obama.

And then, my friends <—ironic use in parody of McCain — then, we’ll have a campaign on our hands that will make the ugliness of this one look, really, like lipstick on a pig.

So it goes.

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Colin Powell Endorses Obama: The Photo Canadamerican Politics: Pt II (EM was here first)

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gwen  |  October 27, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Have you read this about Sarah Palin? It’s worth checking out, for sure.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathlyn-and-gay-hendricks/body-politics-sarah-palin_b_132785.html

    Reply
  • 2. zennifer516  |  October 27, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I hadn’t read that particular article, Gwen! Thanks for pointing it out, and it sure does add to the concerns I have about Palin.

    Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks provide some really interesting food for thought that seems to be founded on a good understanding of psychology.

    Body language is a funny thing–there is a universal, cross-cultural human response to certain signals. Getting into the fine print (like being able to tell whether someone is lying) is sometimes more difficult, especially because politicians–and beauty pageant contestants!–like sociopaths and professional gamblers, can consciously override some of the ‘tells.’

    Fascinating.

    I also like this article very much: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathlyn-and-gay-hendricks/body-politics-the-source_b_134900.html

    It’s about the politics of fear, and McCain’s own particular psychology around that. Not enough has been discussed about McCain as a former POW and the impact that has left on him. Early in the campaign, it was trotted out as a talking point against Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience. I think they wisely backed off that tactic, but not for the reason they should have. Scratch that surface, and you will find someone with longstanding, unresolved post-traumatic stress disorder. I’d bet my mortgage on it.

    If you come across any articles about that, I’d love to see them.

    I feel another blog post coming on ….. 🙂

    Reply
  • 3. Gwen  |  October 27, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I also liked the articles about the Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) of the candidates and their selective spouses. You can tell a lot about the governing and leadership abilities of people by the way they interact with their significant others. It’s very, very interesting. I think that explains my comfort level with the Obamas. Their attraction and respect for each other is so evident that it almost feels like I’m intruding just by looking at the pictures.

    Here are links to post-debate PDAs. The contrasts are very notable.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/16/post-debate-pda-the-final_n_135423.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/07/post-debate-pda-slideshow_n_132848.html

    Reply
  • 4. Gwen  |  October 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    “I also like this article very much: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathlyn-and-gay-hendricks/body-politics-the-source_b_134900.html

    I did read this one as well. Lo and behold, I felt quite a bit of sympathy for Senator McCain! I couldn’t help it.

    It’s a bad situation, and one that he has dealt with in the best way possible. He has built a wall to protect himself. However, that wall causes him to exist in a constant state of denial – a place where he’s happier, better off, untouchable, invincible….

    The truth is, his stint as a POW did more damage than he’ll ever let on, and I really don’t think he received the help that he needed upon his return to the States. Of course, PTSD is more of a reality today than it was back then. I’ve read somewhere that he tried to commit suicide once, shortly after his return.

    That leads me to believe that his quest for the Presidency has more to do with personal accomplishment than it has to do with wanting to do the best for America. In other words, although he feels that he sacrificed himself – to the point where his very life was threatened – for the United States of America, he still doesn’t think he is as successful (or that people will fully appreciate him) until he captures the highest office attainable, and at any cost.

    Captivating….

    Reply
  • 5. zennifer516  |  October 27, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    “his quest for the Presidency has more to do with personal accomplishment than it has to do with wanting to do the best for America.”

    That became oh-so-clear when it put aside his own principles, very obviously, to choose a running mate who would shore up his appeal to the base, but who very clearly was a danger to the country.

    It is so ironic that in doing so, he threw away his chance. He may never have won–I think the hatred of Bush and the economic crash would have sewered him no matter what. But he wouldn’t have lost the same way: in a way that sullies his reputation and damages his party.

    ‘course I say this with 8 days left and nothing is a sure thing. There is absolutely no room for complacency, and the fear-mongering McCain and Evita Lenscrafter are doing around “socialism” is gaining some traction.

    I think I’ve got myself into it over home … let’s see how some of our other friends respond. hehehe

    Reply
  • 6. zennifer516  |  October 27, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Oh, and on the PDAs: I haven’t ever seen a Presidential couple who have seemed to have such a healthy, respectful relationship.

    It’s important, too, because to be able to be whole, authentic and behave with respect and integrity in one’s personal relationships signifies an ability to do that with others, don’t you think?

    Remember the first debate? Obama was criticized for saying so frequently to McCain “you’re right.” I saw that a completely different way–it’s a communication style that is founded on a fundamental level of respect. It says: “I hear you. I don’t agree with you, but I can acknowledge your point of view.”

    How freakin’ healthy is that?!? And how appalling that when people saw it, they thought it was inappropriate–that he had ‘lost points.’

    I love elections. When can you see such a plethora of human behaviour all out on display for our viewing pleasure and discussion! 🙂

    Reply

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