Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama's Bipartisanship

Missed by the American media pundits on the cable political talk shows was that Obama's bipartisanship has nothing to do with charming Republicans but about meeting with Conservative PM Stephen Harper.
"If Canadians were no fans of Mr. Bush, their conservative leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, found in him a kindred philosophical spirit . . . "

http://www.cbsnews.com/images/2009/02/19/image4813474l.jpg

In personal terms, there should be excellent chemistry between these two guys. In generational terms, they belong to the same baby-boomer cohort. Harper was born in 1959, Obama in 1961. They both come from modest backgrounds, where their mothers were the most important influence in their lives. They both saw themselves as agents of change, both made audacious reaches for power at a young age, and both have grasped the brass ring.

Never mind that Obama is a liberal Democrat and Harper is a right-of-centre Conservative. Both have taken parties of chronic losers and made them winners. That's the starting point between them. And in any event, the left in the U.S. can be to the right of centre in Canada. Obama wants to double U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, while Harper has promised to pull Canada out of the country by 2011. Obama would never support legislation or constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., while Harper called a free vote on it in Canada, and dropped his opposition when a parliamentary resolution backed the courts.

After all as I pointed out here on several occasions Obama is a classic liberal, that is a 'progressive' conservative. While Harper too is a classic liberal, though more influenced by American Republican interpretations of libertarianism equating it with Ayn Randism. Underneath their discourse was the common view that it was time to fortify the gates of fortress North America, which includes Mexico, over issues of common security, shared climate change policy and mutual stimulus packages.

Despite big differences in philosophy and style, Obama and Harper presented a common front on issues as varied as the war in Afghanistan, reversing the recession and pushing back the hot-button issue of trade protectionism.

Together, they announced a "clean energy dialogue" aimed at finding technological answers to the twin environmental dilemmas of Alberta oil sands and American coal.

For left wing Americans and Canadians who think Obama is left wing, their enthusiasm for Obama is simply their misunderstanding of his realpolitik, as Thomas Walkom notes.
His vision is that of Lincoln Republicanism, especially the radical Republicans who have nothing in common with the right wing evangelicals who took over the current party under Reagan, nor anything in common with the isolationists of the Republican Party of the FDR era.
In that he and Harper share a common understanding of the classical liberal politics of self improvement through self reliance and self responsibility, progress through merit, not class or status. These are the masonic values of the enlightments further espoused by the utilitarian philosophers.

Yes the visit to Canada was truly an expression of Obama's successful bi-partisan politics, the politics of radical republicanism.


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24 comments:

ConnectingTheDots said...

Interesting blog. Relevantly, Harper and Obama are part of the same generation--Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention in the U.S. and many top commentators from many top publications and networks there (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) specifically use this term to describe Obama.

It now seems to be picking up steam in Canada. Here is an op-ed in The Globe and Mail this week which speaks to exactly this issue, by the guy who coined the term "Generation Jones": http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090217.wcogen18/BNStory/specialComment/home

And here's the same guy on CTV's Canada AM a couple of days ago discussing Harper, Obama, and Generation Jones:
http://watch.ctv.ca/news/latest/fans-of-obama/#clip141509

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