Done like baked Alaska? Not the Canadian left, a
representative of which is shown here with someone whose
political prospects are not as bright. Photo found on the ‘Net.
OK, we know what happened. But what happens next?
Don’t count on the professional political punditocracy to explain anything. As a class, they can’t even match economists for accuracy, let alone weather forecasters.
Right now their record’s about as solid as the palm reader who told me in my callow youth I was certain to have three wives and seven children. (At the moment, with decrepitude if not retirement staring me in the face, I’m holding at one of the former and two of the latter.)
South of the border, just weeks ago the commentariat had us all persuaded that the Republicans were forever. There was, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, No Alternative.
You see, they explained, Americans were just too conservative. There were just too many “red” states. (Sorry about those quotation marks, folks, but where I come from “Red” just doesn’t mean “supports free markets.”) Anyway, Karl Rove had it all worked out how to keep the Republicans in power at least until the Rapture, possibly longer. And if he couldn’t do it, those magic voting machines would do the trick.
Oh, and if the Democrats were so foolish as to run an African American or a woman, let alone one who was a real “liberal,” they’d be done like baked Alaska, forgotten in Sarah Palin’s oven.
Well, that was then and this is now.
Barack Obama is president elect, busy picking a cabinet. And the commentariat? They’re doing what the punditocracy always does: explaining everything in tones of spurious authority without so much as a hint that just hours ago they were all out to lunch.
Indeed, one well-known New York Times commentator is now predicting the Republicans won’t reclaim the White House for another quarter century, if ever.
I mention this only because it bears on what the same sorts of people are saying up here on the chilly side of the Medicine Line.
The received wisdom of the Canadian punditocracy seems to be that no matter whom the Liberals choose as leader in the wake of the Dion Debacle, Stephen Harper is forever.
You see, they explain, Harper’s Conservatives dominate the entire rightward half of the Canadian political spectrum. The centre and the left will never unite. Grits, Greens and Knee-Dips will never vote strategically again. Harper has broken the Liberal monopoly on the ethic vote. The Liberal franchise is fatally shrunken. Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff? They’re no Barack Obama… Yadda yadda.
In other words, they’d like us to believe that Stephen Harper stands astride us, a colossus.
Yeah, right. A colossus just like George Bush!
It’s all hooey. It’s baloney just like it was baloney to say Americans were too racist to look after their own interests and elect the best man if he happened to be African American, or for that matter if he happened to be a woman.
It’s baloney inspired by what the punditocracy would like to believe – and would like us to believe. They’ve got a bazillion and one reasons the Conservatives can never be defeated because they want us to think that defeating them is a hopeless cause. If we’re inclined to vote against the Conservatives and their wrecking-crew policies, so much the better if we just give up and stay home on election day.
Many of them do it because they got where they are by being committed to right-wing ideology. Plenty more do it because their bosses tell them to, and pundits don’t get paid to be independent minded.
Hand in hand with the myth the Conservatives are forever is the notion that most voters are really very conservative, cheerfully right wing in their outlook.
We’re told this constantly too, also for good reason. When so-called conservatives are still clinging to power, as they are here in Canada, it justifies the view there’s no point hoping for change, let alone working for it. Just shut up, stay home and pay your private health insurance premiums.
When political parties flirt with progressive leaders, the commentariat advises them not to because the right-wing electorate would never stand for it. When the electorate has the good sense to turf the right-wingers out of office, this myth provides an excuse for the right to seize back the agenda and argue that the new leaders don’t really have a mandate to do what they were elected to do.
Too often it works. But the truth is that Canadian and American voters are both generally well to the left of their leaders.
They get it about how financial deregulation caused the current economic catastrophe. They get it that “free markets” – fee markets, more like – cost more and don’t deliver decent service, let alone true economic freedom. They get it about what business would do to the environment if it could only get away with it.
In Canada – well, outside Alberta, anyway – voters mostly get it that Harper’s Conservatives are still committed to the gospel of the wrecking crew – given half a chance, they’ll decentralize our country, sell its assets for a song to their pals in business and deregulate everything that stands in the way of unbridled greed. Voters get it that the only thing holding the Conservatives in check is their minority status in Parliament. Which is why, of course, despite the ineptness of Dion’s leadership they wouldn’t give the Conservatives a majority.
All of which is why, notwithstanding the conventional wisdom and herd instinct of the pundits, either Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae has a real chance to become prime minister.
Up until the day it happens, of course, the pundits will explain to us why it never will. Once the Liberals under Iggy or Bob have recaptured Parliament, just as certainly the pundits will explain why they knew all along it was all foreordained.
In fact, you can count on it. If the pundits say it’s so, it’s not. If they say it’s not, it is. If they switch, they’re still wrong.
This is even true of the prediction about the Republicans. I’m sorry to report that there will be a Republican back in the White House in less than 25 years. History happens – even if it isn’t going to happen any more to Sarah Palin.
One thing’s pretty sure though, and you can take it from me: The Whigs are finished.