“Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” – Sen. Adlai Stevenson, running for President in 1956
Everyone said last month’s federal election was the dirtiest, ugliest campaign in Canadian history. Now, I have to admit: I was somewhat preoccupied by my first month in University and the concurrently running beauty pageant in the U.S. But honestly, from what I observed, if the American election were fought at the “dirtiness” level of the worst Canadian election, it would be the cleanest contest we’ve ever had.
I tried my best to stay informed and connected. I watched the leaders’ debates. I read the platforms. I even sought out the parties’ commercials on YouTube. But I couldn’t understand it. Why wasn’t Stephen Harper calling out Jack Layton for saying that Canada is falling behind the rest of the world? In my country, if a Democrat compared the U.S. unfavourably with some Scandinavian country, his career would be finished and his family would swiftly move into hiding – without him.
Canadians thought their leader was pandering too much because he put on a sweater. People made a fuss when Harper started ending his speeches with “God Bless Canada.” If that’s over the line, what do you call Mike Huckabee putting on a sweater, sitting in front of a cross and Christmas tree telling the audience to forget about politics because “what really matters is the birth of Christ”? Jefferson has likely rolled in his grave so many times he’s probably rolled on over to Canada.
Many of us Americans think we should be able to get something for nothing. We want the services government provides without all the burdens, like taxes and national service. Many in the heartland – as well as my new, ultraconservative barber here in Montreal – like to say, “Freedom isn’t free.” Okay, well neither is a well-equipped military, a humane health care system, unemployment insurance, the police, nor a sanitary sewage system. But Canadians appear to have all this figured out. If only there was some way of sharing the real meaning of a social contract with those down south.
Here, the politicians don’t pander to the lowest common denominator. I haven’t travelled too far west yet, but I’m sure you guys have stupid people in Canada. At least a few.
Anyway, Canadian politicians don’t focus on winning the vote of the idiot that is the creationist hick, who, to quote Christopher Hitchens from a Slate article, “is an unusually stupid primate but who does not have the elementary intelligence to recognize the fact that this is what he is.”
In many ways, this country’s dialogue is more elevated than that of my home country. How? By recognizing that the point of having a republic is so that the idiots have neither the burden nor the opportunity of governing the rest of us. Tell that to populist demagogues running around my country droppin’ g’s off the ends of words to appear at ease with “real people.”
Is there something different in the water here? Is there something that does not allow you to see the other side of the political divide as your sworn and mortal enemy, whom you would and will fight to the death? Canadian politicians, unlike their southern counterparts, do not impugn each other’s motives or patriotism. One might call it an atmosphere of minimum respect, if felt so inclined.
American politicians need to get out quick, punchy remarks to constantly feed the voracious Hungry, Hungry Hippo of the 24-hour news cycle. Canadians don’t really have that kind of insatiability. There is a media, but it’s not the voracious, cynical hack machine we have in the States.
Perhaps the world really does need more Canada.
Ricky’s column appears ever Monday. Send your socialist propaganda and anti-God literature to firstname.lastname@example.org.