Canada has seen a groudswell of interest, some might say infatuation, for the American elections. It seems more acute this year than it was during the Bill Clinton, Bush I or II election cycles.
In 2008, election-watch parties became a phenomenon across the country. Even non-politicophiles gleefully committed electoral adultery by following the American electoral returns with the intensity previously reserved for the Olympic hockey finals.
This year is no different. In fact, numerous Canadians have made the jump across the border to volunteer on the campaign for the American president's re-election. Even teenagers, not yet of voting age, have fallen under Barry's spell.
There is a sense that history is being made, that this President is this generation's John F. Kennedy, that this is the era we'll be referring to for decades to come.
The frenzie is not limited to commoners. Canadian political parties have studied the 2008 Obama election model and attempted to copy it. The simplified web presence, a pivot towards social media and YouTube, and the focus on collecting email addresses for future use are obvious examples.
But no Canadian political machine has matched the prowess of Obama's pivotal exploit.
Because there is an element of the formula that is still missing in Canadian politics. The ingredient Obama brings is one that still eludes the political establishment.
Too often, when Canadian political leaders refer to the working class, immigrants, visible minorities, the poor, or those who have to lean on government to perhaps pursue their post-secondary education, they refer to us in the third person plural. When Obama talks about the working class, it is not an abstract concept he's only read about in books, he employs the words "us" and "we" with a sincerity that eclipses that of his opponents'.
We believe him because we identify with his life experiences: In a single-parent household, relying temporarily on food stamps; being teased for being "different" -- something every visible minority kid has experienced in one form or another; depending on loans and grands to attend university; picking up his then-girlfriend Michelle in an old beat-up car -- because that's all he could afford.
Yes, these anecdotes resonated with us four years ago. And for some of us, even moreso after the Birther movement reduced his presidency to a referendum on Obama's belonging to the country of his birth -- the American version of Canada's «Where are you from?» [...] «No, where are you *really* from?»
Until Canada comes up with a leader who can include the 99 per cent, who can articulate our everyday struggles and triumphs, who can encompass the diverse fabric of Canadian society, we are condemned to live vicariously through our neighbours to the South.
And what a vicarious life it is!