Home > News and politics > Rebounding Southward: A Commentary On Liberal Fortunes Surging in Canada & the U.S.

Rebounding Southward: A Commentary On Liberal Fortunes Surging in Canada & the U.S.

28-Jan-07 06:20 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I don’t know if it’s always fair to judge U.S. politics simply by which party runs the Whitehouse.  However, for most of my life it has certainly seemed like the Republicans have dominated the political scene – piquing perhaps back in the good ‘ol days of Ronald Regan.  But things haven’t been going well for the Republicans since George Jr.’s election…and there’s a surge of Democrat popularity like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime – perhaps like nothing since the days of JFK.

Barack Obama; taking a
run at the U.S. Democratic
Party’s presidential nomination.

Part of that surge might be thanks to a recent phenomenon in U.S. politics – a fellow named Barack Obama.  An extermely talented communicator, he has an almost legendary capacity to inspire crowds they say.  Another element might be the fact the two leading 2008 Democrat presidentail candidates are likely to be a woman and a black man.  And then there’s the element added to all of this by the new media: grassroots-approach websites like YouTube and entertaining videos used to woo the increasingly Internet-facing audience, like this favourite of mine – a funny musical parody that chips away at the old Yankee fear of contemporary political liberalism.  And then there’s the Hollywood factor…the perception (and I think not entirely undeserved) that there’s a propensity in the U.S. entertainment industry to favour the Democrats.  Michael Moore has been busy releaseing a number of docu-movies in the past few years.

All of this has been gradually eroding the foundation of conservatism that tends to dominate U.S. politics – and now, especially with someone like Obama on the radar – could turn the Whitehouse into Camelot 2.0.

Stéphane Dion at the
Canadian Liberal Party’s
Leadership Convention,
fall 2006.

Here in Canada, there’s likely to be some influence from this surge in the U.S.  Unlike the U.S., Canadian politics tends to already be dominated by a liberal foundation.  In my lifetime, while the U.S. has been led by conservative presidents, Canada has been led by Liberal prime ministers.  And now there’s Stéphane Dion, a new Liberal Party leader who’s yet to become well-known by Canadians.  What’s interesting about him, though, is just how hungry Canadians seem to be for information about him.  When the Liberals lost the last election amidst a handfull of election spending scandals, they’d already lost some fairly high-powered talent due to an ongoing feud between the, then, leader Paul Martin and his predecssor, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.  The Liberals had been divided into two camps, aligned with each man – and when Chrétien left office, Martin essentially cleaned house of those who hadn’t already left on their own.  The exception being, of course, was Dion.  But Dion wasn’t a high-profile caucus member and nobody thought he’d take the Liberal leadership late last fall.  And now the electorate, in part simply wanting to know the man that might end up Prime Minister, is waiting to learn more about him too.  As an unknown Dion benefits from not really having any baggage associated with him and the current Conservative government has made some unpopular decisions on key files lately, causing many to question whehter the leader, Stephen Harper, should remain in office.

While Canada’s electorate has historically been less receptive to attack ads (at least of the kind seen south of the border), they do have a role to play in Canadian politics.  And this weekend, the Conservatives have launched a series of ads aimed at Dion personally, in an apparent bid to quantify Dion and paint him as some sort of villain, instead of the unknown he is now.  Doing so could pay off for the Conservatives and stop their gradual slide in the polls.  But attack ads have seriously backfied on the Conservatives in the past too – causing speculation in the media about whether these ads will have th desired effect.

It a way, it does show a degree of worry for the Conservatives to do this – trying to stop a Liberal surge before it gains any real traction.  But the forces at work both in the U.S. and perhaps in Canada seem to have a lot of momentum behind them.  And it will likely take more than a handfull of ads to turn the tide to the advantage of the Conservatives….wherever they are.

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Categories: News and politics
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Terry Glavin

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