Dan Leger, in yesterday's Chronicle Herald, writes that the real issue behind this election has been obscured:
What’s the great issue of the 2011 election? Certainly leadership, platforms and competing visions of Canada are in play. But something else is going on. This campaign has become a battle for legitimacy. It has gone deep and turned dark, into a place where the parties now claim that electing their opponents will taint the legitimacy of politics.
It started on Day 1 and nothing has happened to change it. The story lines have evolved, but the underlying ballot question that has emerged is this dispute over legitimacy.
The New Right -- from the first President Bush down to Stephen Harper -- has attempted to portray its opponents as illegitimate. The first Bushies claimed that Bill Clinton was an illegitimate president because he garnered only 42% of the vote. And now some Republicans, who claim a preference for tea, claim that Barack Obama is illegitimate because -- all evidence to the contrary -- he was not born in the United States.
Stephen Harper has been using that line against Micheal Ignatieff since he returned from the United States. He's not one of us, Harper claims. And he has gone even further. In this election, he argues, any other political arrangement -- other than a Conservative majority -- is illegitimate.
Democrats turned that argument on Republicans when the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush in the White House. Now the Liberal Party has turned it against Stephen Harper. But there is a difference. Liberals argue that, while Harper was legitimately elected, his demonstrated contempt for Parliament has, in effect, nullified his legitimacy.
It is, indeed, a sad turn of events. Democracy is founded on the principle that differences of policy need to be debated. Most elections, writes Leger, revolve around two questions: Is it time for a change? And who is most fit to govern?
Those questions are certainly in play. But in 2011, with no great difference in party platforms, the arguments boil down to the idea that some parties must not rule because of something fundamentally illegitimate about their behaviour, their leadership or because of some hidden agenda.
Neo-Conservatism is the gift that keeps on giving. Or, more accurately, it is the poison that keeps on spreading.
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.