Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obama's Canadian Enemies

By now most people are aware that someone, somehow in the Harper government interfered with the Barack Obama campaign in the US. Ian Brodie, Harper's chief of staff, is directly implicated for his so-called off-hand remark. That Brodie still has a job in the Prime Minister's Office is an indication of how Bush-like the Harper regime has actually become. Wrong-doing by Harper loyalists is treated the same as it is in the Bush administration. Nothing happens.

The truth is, Harper and his Conservative Party of Canada are not the Tories of Canada's historical past. Jeet Heer has done the heavy lifting on this one and has a must read article in the Guardian.
One contextual fact might help explain the whole matter: the increasing integration between Canadian and American conservatives, who tend to be as thick as thieves. Brodie's own career is part of this story of the Canadian right becoming increasingly tied to its American counterpart. Brodie did his PhD in political science at the University of Calgary under Ted Morton, an American-born former academic and activist and known as the dean of the "Calgary school", an intellectual movement that has remade Canadian conservatism along American-lines. Traditionally, Canadian conservatives have followed the model of old-fashioned British Tories, emphasising social cohesion and accommodation to the welfare state. Morton, who has served as an advisor to many conservative politicians, has consistently worked to make the Canadian right imitate their successful brothers to the south in marrying populism on social issues (including opposition to gay rights and abortion) with free-market economic policies. This is a major development. Historically, Canadian conservatives have been the most anti-American of our major political parties. Brian Mulroney changed that with the Free Trade Agreement of 1988, but it's worth bearing in mind that even under Mulroney the Conservative party had very little formal ties with the American right. Mulroney's political roots were in the machine politics of Quebec, always friendly toward American big business but culturally and socially distinct from American conservatism. One telling detail: Mulroney once said that the American politician he most admired was Mario Cuomo, an equally earthy street-fighting Catholic pol.
It's not just the politicians that have caused this change. There are the inside operators who regularly cross the border and work both the Canadian and US conservative movement.
... the emergence of a cohort of intellectual entrepreneurs, journalists and thinktank types who happily shuttled back and forth from Washington and New York to Toronto and Ottawa. David Frum is perhaps the most famous figure of this crowd, happy to write for the National Post and the National Review, work one day to merge the two right-wing parties of Canada and then go on to pen speeches for George Bush.
More. Oh yes there's more.
Daniel Casse, Father Richard John Neuhaus, Ken Whyte, Rachel Marsden, Peter Brimelow and Mark Steyn.
A bit of curiosity with this crowd is the "residences" they maintain. Some are clearly permanent US residents. Whyte is most definitely resident in Canada. But some of them claim to maintain two residences - one in Canada and one in the US. Given that this lot regularly bashes the idea of single-payer health care in the US, one has to wonder if those maintaining Canadian residences carry Canadian provincial health-care cards.

There is one other name which floats to the surface.
Back when he was still a media baron, Conrad Black was the great patron of this group. Like a czar willing to send the Cossacks wherever needed, whether Mongolia or the Ukraine, Black was happy to move his minions around the globe, not just to Toronto and Washington (where Black owned The Hill, a small but influential congressional newspaper) but also London and Jerusalem. The net result was the creation of a global right-wing intellectual movement that is very well coordinated. In fighting Bill Clinton, for example, Black's papers abroad would sometime print scurrilous reports that were too wild and un-sourced for the American press. Thanks to the internet and talk radio, these reports would echo back in the United States and eventually become part of the mainstream discourse.
Drudge, Limbaugh, O'Reilly...

Heer poses an interesting idea in his conclusion. The most important aspect though is that Harper's integration with the US movement conservatives is virtually complete and it would be a mistake to suggest they are related to past Canadian conservative parties by anything but a slender thread. In fact, they are, as Heer suggests, a part of a much larger international conservative movement headquartered in this US toilet.

We didn't like the Comintern and the Cominform. Why would we accept a conservative form of it?

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

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