Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Has The Ground Shifted Beneath Us?

What the cynics fail to understand is that
the ground has shifted beneath them
In that one line, Barack Obama today rebuked, denounced, rejected and consigned to the trash the ideology spawned by Ronald Reagan that grew, under Bush/Cheney, to very nearly choke to death American democracy itself.
When I heard Obama state those words I said to myself "it's about time" before wondering if, indeed, the ground hasn't finally shifted beneath all of us.
I hope and believe that the Obama presidency will usher in a new era restoring America's progressive legacy. That Obama is a progressive is beyond doubt.
But what of Canada's rich, progressive tradition? It's been taking a beating the past couple of years but, surely, there is no better time to restore progressive democracy to Canada than now. Has the ground shifted beneath us too?
I don't expect to hear anything progressive from Stephen Harper. He's too tightly invested in the failed ideology of those who were helicoptered out of Washington today.
What of the Liberal Party of Canada? Liberals past would have been very comfortable hearing Obama's inaugural address. They would have heard in it many of their own, core beliefs.
Wouldn't it be great if today's Liberal leadership revealed a real understanding and appreciation of our great progressive tradition? How encouraging it would be if, instead of drawing itself closer to Harper on the right, the Liberal leadership broke from that and declared that the ground has shifted beneath us too, that we were taking Canada back to the centre where this nation belongs.
Those who might dismiss this as so much leftwing sentimentality weren't listening to what Obama was saying. He embraces progressive democracy because he knows that, with the enormous challenges that are already here and the even greater challenges that are coming, it is the only way for his nation, any nation, to meet them.


Oemissions said...

I like the grass roots revitalization that has been happening with the Obama movement.
People have been meeting in small community groups hosting potlucks and discussions on topics and then feeding that in to an overall perspective from other groups through out the country.
He keeps throwing the responsibility back to the people everytime he speaks.
Today I was more impressed with the poet and the closing benediction from the Reverend than with anything Obama said.
It was truly a LOL. I cherished it.
What for me is beautiful about Obama is his family. The friendship I see between him and Michelle. Their concern for children.Suddenly, politics is not separate from home. The old boys have flown the coup.?
Well, not entirely.
Wall Street says it suffered today because of Obama's speech.
I wonder if any of the Wall streeters attend those grass root potlucks.?
I wonder if they drop off something for the foodbank box.
I wonder if they have ever experienced real human suffering.
Obama has people surrounding him who have very opposing attitudes to mine.
The organic movement is upset about his choice for secretary of agriculture and still working on getting him to rechoose.
We will have to act, wait and see.
I also liked his acknowledgement of the waiters at the luncheon.Don't think I heard that before!

penlan said...

"When I heard Obama state those words I said to myself "it's about time" before wondering if, indeed, the ground hasn't finally shifted beneath all of us."

Funny, I thought the same thing too. I think we now have a real chance of getting rid of Harper & the Cons sooner rather than later. A lot of Cdn.'s will have been inspired by what occurred yesterday, & that "lifting of the weight", there, just might spill over here to want the same.

Ted Betts said...

If you listened to Obama's speech and to the things he has been saying in the last 18 months and the things he has been doing since he was elected, you would realize that he is speaking most certainly to the extreme partisans in the conservative ranks, but also to the extreme partisans in his own party. The ground has shifted from petty partisanship and division: that has been Obama's #1 message from the beginning. He is a new progressive, a progressive for the 21st Century.

Your comments on the Liberal Party show you just don't get Obama and what he means.

Most progressives are getting behind Ignatieff as the polls and rising Liberal membership numbers indicate. Some progressives are not and, while I hope they will someday see that "progressivism" is not a purist ideology but a spectrum, you have rejected Ignatieff before he's even had a chance to really do anything other than issue a few statements.

That to me is the sad part for progressivism and liberalism in Canada. There is an old guard of progressives who just want to lash out at conservatives and anyone who does not fit squarely and fully within their ideological box.

When progressives in the US can embrace, rally around and be inspired by a leader who opposes equal marriage, wants to limit abortions, wants to increase troops in Afghanistan, is called "Uncle Tom" by Ralph Nader, refers to "God" and prayer even more than Bush, appoints Republicans to the cabinet, and created his very movement by speaking about reaching across the aisle and focusing on our similarities instead of our differences on particular issues... when progressives can see that kind of a man as the vanguard and leader of a new kind of progressivism for the 21st Century, it seems so very sad that some - yes, a tiny few but they are there - progressives in Canada think it is better to help Harper and the Conservatives stay in government than to give the Liberals a chance - than to work with all Canadians in a big liberal and progressive tent - because their leader doesn't fit into nice and easy pre-defined old-style left-right boxes.

I often find that Canada is about 5 to 10 years behind any transformative change that takes place in the US. King's New Deal followed Roosevelt by about 5 years. Reagan's brand of conservativism arrived here with Mulroney's smiling Irish eyes in 1984. The Clinton move to the centre and balancing budgets arrived here a few years afterward with Chretien's surpluses and tax cuts in 1998-99. The 1994 triumphs of Newt Gingrich and the Republicans and the rise of hardcore conservativism ascended to government in Canada only with Harper.

Maybe it will take a few years for these few progressives here to realize that it is the ground beneath them as well that has shifted and see the world through the new paradigm, instead of holding on to the anger that politics sometimes creates when it doesn't fit tightly into your old and dated world view of left-right politics.

For the sake of Canada and for progressivism and liberalism in Canada, I hope it is much sooner than that.

Ted Betts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted Betts said...

Sorry for the double post. I hit "publish your comment" and it didn't appear so I hit again. I've deleted the second post as it was identical.

The Mound of Sound said...

Ted I doubt that those who view Obama through MI beer goggles ought to presume to lecture anyone else about what this means.

Ted Betts said...

Then I'll invite you to comment:

How can someone who:
- opposes equal marriage
- wants to limit abortions
- wants to increase troops in Afghanistan
- is called "Uncle Tom" by Ralph Nader
- refers to "God" and prayer even more than Bush
- appoints Republicans to the cabinet
- talks a lot about wanting to reach across the aisle and focus on our similarities instead of differences on particular issues
- gives a rah-rah American triumphalism inauguration speech ("we do not have to apologize for our way of living") that conservatives everywhere are saying could have been given by Reagan

How can someone like that be embraced as a progressive - which I believe and agree that he very much is - but then someone who disagrees with you on Gaza is necessarily and automatically a neo-con?

To ask that is not to compare the two, but it seems like a clearly incongruous view of the two men.

I've asked that of the anti-Iggy crowd a lot lately and I only get flip answers and insults back. Perhaps you can enlighten me on how you reconcile the two views.