The Droz Report #2
'Parliamentary democracy?' Wat dat?
Can we say 'presumption of privilege', ladies and gentlemen?
Iggy's leap at comic's tweet shows he shares Harper's contempt for Canada's democratic traditions
'Ok i'll produce a Iggy Harper debate. 50 grand to a charity of their choice. I'll find a broadcaster or 4.' — Rick Mercer, tweeting on Saturday, April 2, 2011.
'I'm in.' — Michael Ignatieff, Saturday, April 2, 2011.
I at first wanted to hammer Rick Mercer for trading in his satirist's badge in favour of court jester's (forgive the generic link to the Mercer's homepage; if one of you can tell me how to make a permanent link to a tweet, I'd be most obliged. ETA: Thanks to Mijopo, here is the permanent link to the tweet in question), but that wasn't fair. If Mercer ever was a real satirist, he gave it up a long time ago. And you can't blame a comedian for cracking wise. That's his job.
You can, though, blame Michael Ignatieff for taking the comic's bait.
The ostensible public intellectual and one-time Professor of Human Rights showed no respect for, or understanding of, Canada's history or our parliamentary culture and traditions in answering Mercer's tweet with his own, "I'm in."
On the proverbial first glance the idea of a Harper/Ignatieff face-off sounds not so unreasonable. After all, neither Jack Layton nor Gilles Duceppe (let alone Elizabeth May, whom the aptly-self-styled "consortium" of Canadian broadcasters has once again refused a spot in the boys' room) has a realistic chance at making the Prime Minister's office their own, so why not let the 'front-runners' have at at each other one-on-one?
In fact, this isn't just an example of a politician serving himself at the expense of his competitors, but a betrayal of Canada's political culture and traditions.
In his unseemly haste to adopt Harper's vision of Canada as America Junior (yes, apologies to H. Simpson), Ignatieff has once again demonstrated that his liberal/Liberal principles are more or less non-existent (see my thoughts on his appalling non-apology for his support of the invasion of Iraq on this site for another example).
That Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister Who Would Be President (who never travels without his
Prime Ministerial presidential dais) disdains the Parliamentary system is no surprise; he has made no secret of his contempt for Canada and its traditions.
That Michael Ignatieff should so quickly and easily demonstrate his utter contempt for Canada's democratic traditions speaks volumes about his own loyalty to the ideas and philosophies that make Canada, Canada.
In portraying himself as Harper's lone antagonist, Michael Ignatieff has shown himself to be Stephen Harper's mirror-image — I'm tempted to say "evil twin", but that would imply the other twin was good.
Just as this country doesn't directly elect the Prime Minister, neither does it have a two-party political system. As with most parliamentary democracies, it has a tradition of dominant parties existing along-side a shifting subset of secondary parties (some of which become dominant — as most recently with the Reform Party's annexation of the former Progressive Conservative Party), but all of which are considered legitimate members of the ongoing conversation which is real politics.
The proposed head-to-head, Liberal vs Conservative, debate would be another nail in the coffin not only of the long-standing Canadian political culture, but of democracy itself.
For real democracy, like real consumer choice, isn't limited to a choice between one of two (usually very similar) options — again, Coke or Pepsi, if you will.
Real democracy involves a lot more than a passive citizenry opting for Tweedledum or Tweedledee once every few years. Real democracy is a messy and never-ending process of conversations, debates and plain old fashioned arguments about how to best live our lives individually and collectively.
Real democracy is active, not passive, process that takes place not just among "politicians" and their various courtiers and hangers-on — the journalists and pollsters and (yes) internet commentators and (especially) the mostly corporate bagmen who all-too often believe that dollars are more valuable than truth, let alone votes — but also among the citizens at large.
Ignatieff's opportunistic decision to (he hopes) strip from the Canadian discourse all but, of necessity, the two broadest, crudest and most polarizing streams of our political river is a betrayal of our history, our culture and of Ignatieff's own moral claim to leadership of this country.