Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Democrats Learn From Conservatives: Obama Like Harper, Romney Like Ignatieff

Many progressives are elated that Obama won last night, they should thank Stephen Harper.

For though many Canadians were happily surprised that Obama's re-election strategy worked, there was really little doubt, as Stephen Harper had already proved it would.

The story of an incumbent winning an election by never ending his campaign and by first defining his opponent as an out-of-touch elitist is something many Canadians have seen before.

The similarities could not be more incredible between the 2012 US Presidential election and Canada's 2011 general election.

First there is Mitt Romney's uncanny resemblance to Michael Ignatieff, and not just the heavy dark eyebrows. Both lost their first leadership run only to be the establishment's candidate and inevitable leader in their second attempt; both were often criticized as not truly sharing their party's ideology; both came from the more elitist part of their party and were often criticized for not connecting with the ordinary voter; and both challenged a relatively popular incumbent.

Perhaps it was because of their opponents similarities that Obama followed in Harper's electoral footsteps, but it's more likely that ideologies don't limit who Democrats learn from. For after becoming President in 2008 Obama never stopped campaigning, just as Canada's Conservative leader did after first taking office in 2006. After the election the American President's first campaign merely transformed into Organizing for America in order to prepare for the next one.

And as soon as Mitt Romney was the clear Republican candidate, the admitted strategy of Democrats was to define him to the American people before he had a chance to. This is the same identical strategy that was used by Canada's Conservatives against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in 2009, not to mention against his predecessor Stephane Dion in 2006.

In the end progressives in Canada can be ecstatic that Barack Obama won. Though they don't have to actually thank Stephen Harper for the American President's re-election, Liberals and New Democrats must at the very least recognize the strategy Obama borrowed from him. For though progressives were happy it worked in helping to re-elect the incumbent in 2012, if they do nothing, their reaction will be much more different in 2015.

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