Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Personal Political Focus Group

I sing with the Milton Choristers, a local community choir of about 30-45 men and women here in Halton. When I first joined 14 years ago I was the youngest member by about a decade, and the only one wearing jeans. These days, it's not quite the blue-haired crowd it once was, and we actually have a wide range of ages, incomes and even ethic origins represented now.

Consequently, the Choristers have become my barometer of the political climate of Milton, as we sit and drink beer and engage in animated conversation about a wide range of topics at Bryden's Pub after rehearsal every Tuesday.

This evening I was conversing with my rather conservative friend Jim. Jim reminds me of a younger version of my dad: professional, moderate to high income, old school family guy. Intelligent. Well informed. Traditional Conservative.

Despite this (or maybe because of it), I consider him a friend. Which is not to say that he doesn't make me want to tear my hair out sometimes.

Jim is of the opinion (and I'm paraphrasing here) that Canada really only needs two political parties, and that they just need to trade places every few years so they don't become overly entrenched and corrupt. Right now it's the Conservatives' turn at the helm, and that's probably the best thing for the country right now as it will clear out the deadwood of too many years of Liberal rule.

Twenty years ago, I might even have agreed with him.

What traditional Canadian Conservatives like Jim fail to understand - and which I cannot for the life of me manage to convince them of - is that the Conservatism they have known all their lives does not bear the remotest resemblance to what Steven Harper and his ilk are calling Conservatism.

They are not moderate. They are not fiscally responsible. They are not patriotic. They do not believe in smaller government - they believe in NO GOVERNMENT AT ALL. In fact, Harper calling his party 'Conservative' is a little like Hitler calling his party 'Socialist'.

I am further convinced of all of this because I finally got tired of waiting for Milton's sole pathetic chain bookstore to stock copies of Thomas Frank's "The Wrecking Crew" and got mine by mail order. I'm one chapter in and already I'm getting a much clearer view of the coming apocalypse should Steven Harper win his majority.

Here is just one excerpt:

There are plenty of good conservative individuals, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the last few years...

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities - priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism.

The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.

Frankly, I fear for both our nations. Because even if the Democrats win there and the Liberals (by some miracle) win here, the damage may well be so extensive and so deep-rooted that it will take years or even decades to repair, and the price to be paid for reversing so many years of irresponsible reductions in federal revenue and mortal blows to our respective democracies, may well be more than the electorate is willing to bear.

In which case, I may not see the end of this within my lifetime. Pray Gods my son sees it in his.

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