Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Morning Links

A few light reads to end your week...

- Yep, this census thingy will blow over any day now for the Harper Cons. Just as soon as those freeloading public health officials stop complaining that "social determinants of health" might be important for their work...

- Meanwhile, to the extent there was any doubt that Guy Giorno would officially be declared responsible for the census debacle among other Con failings, his departure from the PMO should seal the deal.

- Paul Wells' comparison between Stephen Harper and Glenn Beck only seems to be off base in missing the fact that Harper's "politics of venom" is carefully planned rather than delivered in random outbursts. But Wells' discussion of the implications for our political scene dovetails nicely with my take on base motivation:
Throughout that period, writes Perlstein, “America was engulfed in a pitched battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The only thing was: Americans disagreed radically over which side was which.”

And so it is today in our own politics. Whether it’s the long-form census, the long-gun registry, criminal justice or Canada’s role in the Middle East, our politics has become nasty and hotly accusatory. One noteworthy feature of the acrimony is that each side blames the other for all the ugliness. Another is that, thanks to websites and broadcasts that preach to the converted with pinpoint accuracy (Huffington Post, Beck’s The Blaze), the possibility of consensus collapses further because neither side even hears what the other is talking about.

This is useful to Harper and disorienting to the federal Liberals. The Prime Minister is content with a polarized debate, first because it suits his personality, but also because the Conservatives get all of one side and the Liberals have to fight the Bloc and the NDP for the rest. The Liberals, meanwhile, still hope to straddle a centre that’s increasingly hard even to find.
And instead of recognizing that there's some need to counter Harper's narrowcasting and turnout suppression, the Libs seem to be playing into his hands by painting Canadian politics as a choice in tent colour rather than a subject worth getting fired up about.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert's column on the impending federal by-elections contains one rather surprising statement:
In Quebec, the pattern since 2006 has been that the Conservatives have fared better in by-elections than in general elections.

Local rather than national issues typically dominate by-election campaigns. The benefits of electing a member with the inside track on government largesse are easier to highlight in that context than in a general election.
Let's leave aside the recent pattern in Quebec (where the Bloc doesn't seem to be as successful when it can't get the entire province riled up at once). I'd always thought the conventional wisdom was to the opposite effect: that in the absence of any prospect of changing governments, by-election voters tend to be more willing to cast protest votes - but is there reason to think the opposite holds true other than in the case of the Bloc?

- Update: Let's add Avaaz' sharp response to a few obviously false names included in its petition to uphold the CRTC's decision not to give special status to Fox News North:
There is evidence of a deliberate and illegal effort designed to discredit Avaaz and violate an important form of democratic expression for Canadian citizens. If this is confirmed we will request a full investigation, and help to bring the perpetrators to justice.
It's deeply disturbing that in all Avaaz's years of campaigns against US President George Bush, Burmese, Zimbabwean and Sudanese dictators, irresponsible multinational corporations and corrupt politicians, no one has ever yet stooped to this kind of tactic to undermine our members' right to express their views.

We do not yet have all the facts, but it appears to speak to the poisonous political climate and deeply deceptive tactics that have been bred by the radical right in Canada and its progenitor in the US. It is precisely this kind of bare-knuckled, brazenly deceptive and often hateful political climate that Sun TV's "Fox News North" appears keen to promote.
Of course, it's worth noting that while Avaaz may not yet have encountered these kinds of tactics, the "discrediting by fraud" angle is all too familiar to other progressive organizations south of the border. And the prospect of major Canadian media space being devoted to similar lies in the service of reactionary politics should provide all the more incentive to sign Avaaz' petition.

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