As Canadians, we can all agree that American politics are way better than our own, right?
I mean, yah yah health care whatever, but in terms of the actual vigour of ideological debate, the sheer breadth and width of issues openly discussed, the unapologetically divergent solutions offered, and the abundance of pomp, pageantry, and tradition, it's hard to argue Canadian politics are anything but soggy carrots beside a Yankee mignon.
Oh, it's just a "form of entertainment," we say sheepishly, but this uncomfortable defense carries about as much believability as "I just visit PornTube for the articles." We love American politics not simply because the Canadian system would never permit the emergence of a Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, or (for that matter) Barack Obama, but because its debates and stories are cleaner and more compelling than our own, its policy consequences more significant, and its either/or two-party system a welcome change from the intentionally muddled vagaries of our own parliamentary governance (where a determined minority persists that even winning an election is not sufficient to assume power).
Long story short, Canadian editorial pages have devoted a lot more column space to American affairs than our own as of late. But I mean, given the choice between covering a ferocious battle between two men vying for leadership of the free world and a vague conspiracy theory that some guy named Gary Ritz may have not done enough to monitor Albertan beef processing -- well, what would you choose?
Let's begin with Postmedia superstar Michael Den Tandt, who looks at the state of the American race and scratches his head. "Obama and Biden should be walking away with it," he puzzles. I mean, the Prez killed bin Laden, passed universal health care, fixed the economy (more or less), and taught the world to love again. "It's a solid record, when history is placed right side up," agrees the Globe and Mail editorial board.
But alas, says Mike, these days it's a candidate's media image that truly matters, and last week's debate clearly proved that presidential races basically come down to who "appears more confident and upbeat" and has "the better one-liners." It's kinda "stupid," he says, but whatcha gonna do? That's democracy!
Bah, responds Erza Levant, if Obama's losing it's just because he's a whiny lazy loser! America's a third-world basket case of debt and despair, U.S. foreign policy is a "disaster," and you know why? It's cause ol' less-than-one-term-in-the-Senate-Barry has never actually run anything before -- "other than running his mouth."
Ho ho, you are quite a load of laughs, Ezra, rejoins Douglas Saunders at the Globe. If you actually look at the numbers, you can see that Obama is "still overwhelming" Mitt in the polls even after the President's crappy post-debate plunge. So no one should be "throwing their hands in the air and shrieking" just yet -- except maybe the Right.
And so stands the consensus of the Canadian punditocracy: Obama's record is controversial, debates are important, and the presidential race remains tight. Hey, I said Canadians were obsessed with American political commentary -- I never said we were any good at it.
Of course, the other reason we Canucks love U.S. politics so much is because it can offer a useful window into the motives of our own politicians. Our two nations share broadly similar philosophical traditions, after all -- an American progressive isn't that much different than a Canadian one, nor a Republican that different from a Tory.
But it's still possible to go too far with such analogies, especially if you're some manner of liberal journalist specializing in the fine art of guilt-by-association.
This week, for instance, both the Globe's Jeffrey Simpson and the Toronto Star's Heather Mallick wheeled out one of the laziest tropes in the ongoing Americanization of Canadian discourse -- the claim that the Harper government is chin-deep in the pocket of Big Evangelical.
Now, the Evangelical Right's supposed dominance of mainstream conservatism is a questionable premise even in America (what religion is Mitt Romney again?) but to suggest it's an accurate description of the Harper Conservatives requires a mind capable of spectacular intellectual convolutions. And lookie here!
Heather is very concerned that a few back-bench Cons have been making noises about wanting to regulate abortion -- which clearly reveals their deep-seeded Handmaid's Tale "fantasies about controlling women's bodies and lives" -- while Jeff knows that such pro-life squawking shows "how powerful religion remains as a force in the Conservative Party."
I would proceed with my sassy summary, but neither actually goes much further than that. Heather and Jeff simply assert that reactionary views are on the march within Tory ranks, then pad their columns with filler about the United Nations, David Cameron, and SCTV. As opposed to, say, evidence.
In his opener, Jeff notes that the ability of Canadian journalists to report accurately on religious matters is significantly handicapped by the fact that so many are "secularists" who often "have no religious faith at all." He thinks this leads to an underestimation of Evangelical strength, 'cause it's not like ignorance about this-or-that out-group ever breeds exaggerated fears about their power.
But then again, maybe it's just good ol' Canadian jealously. I mean, American liberals get to write about the oppressive stranglehold of Evangelicals over their glamorous political process all the time.
How's tainted meat supposed to compete with that?