In response to the posts earlier this week on this topic, I'd like to
share these impressions:
One of the core topics we discussed in my sociology seminar in the U.S.
last term was the question of whether 1968 should be considered *the*
turning point year of the last half of the 20th century, and whether the
election of Nixon was ultimately the beginning of the end of the illusion
of democracy that had for so long pervaded American political ideology.
The conclusion we reached was that Nixon represented a deep tendency
within the American electorate to drift rightward, in favor of
unrestrained capitalism (and potentially fascism) and away from
participatory/direct democracy. Remember Kevin Phillips' book, "The
Emerging Republican Majority"?
And yet, somehow the "Republicrats" seem largely successful at preserving
the illusion that America remains a "liberal democracy". Why? As I ask
this, I will underline that Marty Jezer's book "The Dark Ages" was one I
encouraged my students to read, to help them understand what life was like
in America during the McCarthy years and to help them appreciate the
meaning of those images of the Army-McCarthy Hearings that I played for
them via videotape.
Last fall, while I was watching the Impeachment coverage in the states, I
was sharing impressions with many Canadian friends via daily e-mails. This
year, I am doing research in Canada (I'm an immigrant, my wife a
Canadian), and I'm watching the American election campaigns from afar,
through "Canadian eyes". A very interesting experience--watching CNN and
then watching CBC Television's coverage of events in the U.S. But watching
this election buildup, and hearing my wife's impressions (she's teaching
in the states right now), I can't help but think that the entire political
spectrum (Dems/Repubs) in America has continued drifting rightward since
1968. Yet, the American Left is eeeril silent. Why?
The same seems true here in Canada, and I suspect also is true in Europe
(perhaps some list members can share impressions of the recent trends in
Germany, France, or the UK). Certainly in this era, the Left seems to be
disorganized, while the Right seems to be gathering more strength, new
coalitions. The zeal of unrestrained free market capitalism seems to be
giving strength to political apologists for its tendencies; the absence of
the Soviet Union prevents any belief that there's a clear alternative to
the market as primary determinant of how societies should be governed.
We have dangerous currents in Canada as well. I live in B.C., which has
been led for many years by a provincial government represented by the New
Democratic Party (NDP). In theory, the NDP is to the left of the liberals,
who are Canada's equivalent to the Democrats (and the party of Canada's
Prime Minister, Jean Chretien), but in governing both B.C. and Ontario,
the party has had disastrous outcomes financially. In Ontario, the NDP's
failures led to the election of a Conservative extremist, Mike Harris, as
Premier, in 1995, and his later reelection despite strong opposition from
most of the public sector. We fear similar events may transpire in B.C. in
the not distant future.
Preston Manning's "Reform" Party (originating in Alberta--Canada's
"Texas"), which is currently reorganized ever futher into the new Canadian
Alliance party. Very much a right-wing party, and a rightward drift of
Canadian national politics. And yet, I do not fear fascist currents in
Canadian politics to the same degree I do for the U.S.: Canadians, as a
culture, seem genuinely concerned about preserving some kind of social
fabric, whereas Americans seem more obsessed with reducing taxes and
promoting individual liberty, regardless of the social consequences for
the collective society.
My conclusion? Americans might look to the north to see how Canadians are
sorting out their dilemmas with the "capitalism versus democracy"
questions. This weekend, the Canadian Alliance is holding its elections to
determine its future leadership and the extent of its ability to build
bridges with the Conservative party and to unite the Right. If you want to
watch any of it, you can follow much from the CBC website:
There's a feature story on the Alliance's efforts to unite the Right here:
I'd be interested to know if there are others on the list with impressions
to share about similarities and differences in U.S. and Canadian political
culture and trends. I make no claim to be an authority on Canadian
political currents--just an observer who's trying to understand broader
global trends of capitalism undermining democratic strucures. But I am
*frightened* at the continued strength of the Republicans and the Right in
the U.S. and the Democrats' willingness to follow along in their
footsteps. Where can this utimately be leading?
(message below included for reference to the thread):
On Fri, 23 Jun 2000, Ted Morgan wrote:
> Re. Tony's comment:
> > But isn't backing candidates who have no chance of winning and who will take
> > votes away from the less objectionable mainstram candidate part of the
> > problem as well.
> A few quick comments: (a) no, the PROBLEM is the system that forces us into this
> position. How do you propose fixing this problem via the lesser-of-two-evils?
> Why would the winners ever want to change the system that systematically
> advantages them? (b) Who the hell knows for sure re. the future, re. winning,
> etc.? (c) what's "less objectionable" about Gore's 100% support for & advocacy
> of globalization, de-regulation of the media, commercialization of the internet
> (and everything else), funding for Colombia, ... etc. (albeit with some cutesy
> Green or 'liberated' rhetoric thrown in). The MAN (since that seems to be the
> focus of the 'lesser of two evil' folks) is through & through a corporatist/
> market society advocate, etc.
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