Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's More Than The Economy

Chantal Hebert writes in today's Toronto Star that the Liberal Party is floundering because Canadians believe Stephen Harper is a competent economic manager:

The global economic downturn has become to Harper what the unity debate was for a string of successful Liberal governments — a defining file that he is managing to own.

So far, no opposition figure is emerging to give the Harper/Flaherty tandem a real run for its money. The opposition narrative on the government’s economic management is failing to find traction with the public.

But, once again, Hebert focuses on only part of the narrative. The Harperites have been ramming through highly ideological legislation -- which has infuriated different segments of Canadian society. The Omnibus Crime bill has both Quebec and Ontario up in arms. The bill to abolish the central desk at the Canadian Wheat Board has alienated a significant number of Canadian farmers.  Killing the gun registry -- and the data base that goes with it -- has created significant opposition in Canadian cities. And the government's prohibition of strikes in the private sector has unions seething.

Anyone who thinks that Mr. Harper's attempt to restructure Canadian society is a political no brainer should look at what has happened in the United States during this week. E.J. Dionne writes that Republicans are taking a "shellacking:"

This week’s elections around the country were brought to you by the word “overreach,” specifically conservative overreach. Given an opportunity in 2010 to build a long-term majority, Republicans instead pursued extreme and partisan measures. On Tuesday, they reaped angry voter rebellions.

In Ohio, voters rejected Governor Kasich's attempt to restrict union bargaining rights. In Maine, voters exercised a "peoples veto" of Republican attempts to outlaw same day voter registration. And, most surprising of all:

In Mississippi, perhaps the most conservative state in the union, voters beat back a referendum to declare a fertilized human egg a person by a margin of roughly 3-to-2. Here was overreach by the right-to-life movement, which tried to get voters to endorse a measure that could have outlawed popular forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

Since coming to power, Mr. Harper has followed the Republican model. It would appear that American voters have looked at the Republicans and have had buyer's remorse. One wonders if Stephen Harper is paying attention.

Ultimately, voters will judge him on much more than his stewardship of the economy.


ck said...

It's nice to see that Americans, slowly, but surely, are wising up. Too bad I can't say the same for Canadians, who are retreating backwards, thinking Steve Harper is just, oh so dreamy!

While folks in Ohio recently put the breaks on union busting by the Republicans, here, in Canada, union busting is high on the menu of many Canadians. How often have I heard naive statements like "We don't need unions, now that we have labour standards?" Naive, because labour standards are being clawed back, here in Canada. Also, once unions are neutered, who and what do they think the Cons will go after next? Of course, it'll be non-unionized workers.

Other nasty comments we hear from Canadians are things like "time to break the backs of unions".

Folks are also gung ho about the new Omnibus crime bill. They honestly believe that locking everyone up will keep them safe. When one tells them that even Texas Conservatives are realizing those very dumb on crime measures don't work, either they can't say anything or those who are bolder say that perhaps Texas just wasn't tough enough. Or worse yet, they'll find something to say that dumb on crime works.

As for pushing through bills with time allocation, well, sadly, Canadians don't understand parliamentary procedure or democracy. Ergo, they dont' care.

They still have an arrogant complacency that things are going just peachy keen for Canada, thanks to their saviour Harper. Worse, many think we should be on our knees thanking the lord we have a prime minister like Harper.

I wonder what it will take for them to wake up? When it's too late, I fear.

Owen Gray said...

The results in the States are heartening, ck. What's disheartening is that often there is a ten year lag between us and them.

If that pattern holds, we're going to have to live with Mr. Harper for a long time.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Republicans in the US, like to think they represent the core values of the majority of Americans. They are fooling themselves. Very radical right types have taken over the party. This last weeks defeat of Republican backed positions should tell them something, although they are not good listeners. You could have also mentioned the recall vote of the author of the draconian immigration legislation in Arizona and the defeat of the Maine governments effort to do away with election day registration.

Owen Gray said...

It's really interesting, Philip, that this rejection of hard right legislation is occurring across the U.S., and is not limited to one state or region.

Despite all of the noise from Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, perhaps people have simply had enough.

Anonymous said...

If voters in Mississippi had defeated simply a law declaring abortion illegal, by a 3 to 2 margin, then I would be happy. But that's not what the vote was on. The vote was on creating the legal person for a fertilized human egg.

The voters that voted in favour are so incredibly deluded or incredibly insane that it stuns the mind. Do they have not even the slightest idea of the repercussions of legal personhood? It's not simply "something that will prevent evil abortions". "Person" isn't just some colloquial term for a real human being or a PC-term to replace "man" (legal personhood predates women being "persons" f.ex). It's a specific legal concept found throughout the entire body of law. I doubt even the republicans bothered to find out what a vote of yes would really have done. At best it would have tied up SCOTUS until it was overturned for being unconstitutional.

They just wanted a crazy idea out there, claim it for the right, and move the Overton window. Move the public discourse over to the right, and move the right discourse over to the insane, and claim victory because you have a block of voters that will vote how you tell them without thinking about what they're voting for.

Owen Gray said...

Your last sentence gets directly to the point. The right's policy positions really can't with stand thorough scrutiny.

But debate is not what they crave. What they want is a state which stands for a particular set of religious principles.

Jefferson, Adams and Munroe knew that such a path was fraught with danger.