Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Why Canadians Want The Worst Politics Of America

Canadians would support our own political institutions if we didn't idealize worse ones.

The last few years have offered an incredible contrast in politics between what interests Canadians and what is best for Canadians. In looking at what has attracted support recently it is undeniably clear that pervasive American values have underpinned changing attitudes in Canada.

From strengthened calls for an elected Senate like our southern neighbour to thinking coalitions shouldn't exist here because they don't in the United States to a Canadian federal party contemplating a primary system similar to an American one; all of this and more is the result not of conscious determined imitation of American institutions, but out of unconsciously adopting the values that created them.

Whether you agree or not that American values are becoming more popular in Canada, American institutions are, and for all the wrong reasons. We may look south with jealousy to their elected Senate, to their protection from coalitions, to their directly elected President, and to their entertaining primaries, but every single one of those institutions has imperilled the United States and is intrinsically and extrinsically worse than the institutions that exist here.

While there is growing support for an elected Senate in Canada, the fact that the American Senate is elected was one of the critical reasons for the recent debt crisis that almost destroyed that nation. In having two equal houses dominated by partisans, with no clear subordination of the Senate as exists in Canada, raising the American debt ceiling was met with legislative deadlock and almost caused the most powerful nation on earth to default on its loans with unimaginable consequences.

Even with an elected Senate endangering the world's largest economy, Canadians still argue an elected Senate is better than one that doesn't do much. This is an example that these attitudes for reforming our political institutions aren't based on results, but values, and in comparing Constitutions, it's clear these values aren't Canadian.

Growing Canadian support for other American institutions is less obvious but just as undeniable. In 2010 Canadians were introduced to the menace of democracy, the dreaded coalition, yet the only kind of democracy that coalitions threaten is the distinctly American kind. In any Westminster system, a system which Canada has embraced since its conception, coalitions are not only permitted but necessary for the principle of responsible government, perhaps one of the greatest principles a democracy can adhere itself to.

Where American democracy is based on a government elected by the people and for the people, it does not depend on the people. Once elected the American government is set for its term, independent from the voters who empowered it.

A President is in the White House for four years no matter the change of public opinion, where Canadian responsible government has, does, and will always demand that our Prime Minister and cabinet depend on citizens during elections and between them. Without coalitions however responsible government is threatened, and if the attitudes of Canadians continue to change, would be replaced with a less democratic American system.

There are of course many other American institutions that Canadians are increasingly favouring over their own, from Liberals contemplating American primaries, Conservatives adopting the American Office of Religious Freedom, support for a two party system (elimination of party subsidies), general pervasion of private health care, polling indicating support for a directly elected Prime Minister, and many others.

If Canadian institutions are more effective, why then are the attitudes of Canadians changing away from them? Well if it's not the results of these institutions that are changing opinions, it must be the values under them that are. Canadian values are slowly being replaced with American ones, not out of choice, but out of cultural-social dominance.

Canadians may not think the American system of governance is the best, but because of the power it wields in the world we pay attention to their political processes, and in that attention paid, our values are affected and altered. Being more and more immersed in their system of checks and balances, the justifications for our own system are becoming more and more ignored and even more forgotten.

What is left, is a Canadian system that is better but is not understood, and an American system that is worse, but familiar.


Spudster said...

I don't like a lot of what the Americans do, but they do "democracy" well.

Our Prime Minister is a virtual dictator compared to the powers of the American President.

The accountability of individual congressman to their districts is a far cry from the whipped party system we have here.

There are many aspects of the American system I prefer more.

I think what you don't like is the extremism of American politics, rather than necessarily their political system.

Joe Arpaio, that crazy sheriff in Arizona, gets reelected constantly *because* he is legitimately serving the democratic views of a portion of the electorate there. On the other hand, you have areas near San Fransisco where Sheriffs will get elected by promising not to make marijuana arrests.

The American democratic system just serves to remove elite influence better than what we have in Canada. It also has the effect of better demonstrating what the mindset of people are in different areas--in some areas, that means evangelical, in others it means progressive. said...

Spudster I disagree. I do dislike their extremism, and ignoring the fact their democratic institutions are responsible for that extremism, I believe their democratic institutions are demostrably inferior.

Our Prime Minister serves at the will of the people. If our directly elected representatives disagree with him or her on important matters or form a coalition he is unseated. There is no way an American President, a man with veto power over all legislation, can be unseated unless through impeachment.

I don't believe a congressman is more accountable. With gerrymandering, with millions and millions spent on election campaigns, with a far larger amount of people to represent, and with such a high incumbancy rate, I may see a congressman who can disagree with his party, but I don't see him doing that to represent constituents over lobbyists or special interests.

More evidence abounds when one reviews the approval ratings of American institutions and how effective Americans think they are.

I dare say thosethat think American democracy is so great do so because of influence. People are interested in what happens in America because it's so powerful, and in watching, in understanding more and more of the American system, Canadian values are slowly replaced. As is the case through out history, where subordinate nations adopt the institutions of the dominant.