Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum. Most of these names are familiar to Canadians, or at least those who like to follow the news or enjoy the theatre that American politics has become. The competition for the Republican candidate to take on Democratic President Barack Obama is intensifying now that we are into 2012 and the election date in November draws nearer.
But who are Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, Martin Singh and Brian Topp? These are the individuals hoping to win the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party, Canada’s Official Opposition in Parliament.
If for nothing else, the nature of these two political competitions – one in Canada and the other in the U.S. – tells us just how different our two countries are, at least politically.
You would think more people here would care about what these NDP-ers are saying since it could have some effect on how much push or pull will take place in Parliament, the Conservative majority notwithstanding.
It goes without saying that the late NDP leader, Jack Layton, was a politician of a special class, an inspirational leader with the common touch. But the lack of interest among the general population in the run up – in two months – to the choice of a new NDP leader is telling.
We could blame the local news media. Aside from the CBC News Network’s Power and Politics, political news coverage in Canada just isn’t as ‘sexy’ as it is in America. Of course, public discourse here is also not as radically divergent as it is in the U.S. media where there seems to be an all-or-nothing view of politics, both on the left and the right.
Moreover, what happens in the U.S. is always an attention getter whether it directly affects Canada or not. Even so, much of what happens there does directly affect us.
With the Buy America policy implemented by the Obama Administration, for example, Canadian businesses looking at their biggest trading partner worry about their bottom line. We can also see it in the outrage from Canadian oil interests over Obama’s decision to put a pause on the plans to construct the Keystone pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands through the U.S.
No decision the NDP can or will make in the days to come will, as far as we can determine, have as much of an effect. So yes, our interests are intuitively tied to what goes on in American politics.
And with the rise in the polls of Gingrich, a right of centre conservative who is speaking the language of the radical right Tea Party movement, compared to the more centrist stance of Romney, the other Republican front-runner, there is a need to pay attention.
While we wait and watch as Americans try to shape their future, we wonder what Canada’s relationship with America would look like with either Gingrich or Romney as U.S. president.
We hope that Obama – who already has his place in American history assured as that country’s first Black president – gets his second term, as an endorsement of what he has managed to accomplish during one of the most fractious times in American politics and in its economy.
There is no question that he faces a tough fight. The kind of unrelenting propaganda that has been mounted against him is nearing the fever pitch with which Republicans hypocritically went after President Bill Clinton during the second term of his administration.
But what we are seeing, largely, in the heightened rhetoric is the result of an economically weakened nation. Any populace becomes more engaged when its livelihood is threatened. And America’s lingering economic challenges are telling.
But, things have been getting better. The automotive industry, for example, which was saved through the efforts of the Obama Administration, has rebounded. General Motors, facing bankruptcy when Obama took office, is once more the world’s largest automaker. And there is so much more, not the least of which has been the renewed respect for the U.S. around the world following eight years of the George W. Bush administration.