William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
SUSAN RILEY RATED HIGHLY
Canadians are fighting against the Taliban
Dying for our Canada o’er in Afghanistan
Omar Khadr the terrorist fought over there too
Dallaire wants him back! – Really? – Do you?
He was young at the time, sure that is true
But most of us were kids when we joined up too
Khadr went to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban
After his recruit training he became a fighting man
Instead of Omar here training a new Toronto Sleeper Cell
Perhaps with Stephanie Dion young Omar could dwell?
Jason Kennedy is right we certainly don’t want him back
We have enough terrorists here – all of them we can’t track?
This rhyme is inspired by Susan Riley of CanWest
Giving advice to Harper’s foes apparently in jest?
The Tories will win the next election without too much contention?
They will amend the claw back to our RCMP and Army pensions?
©Copyright May 20, 2008 by William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
HARPER FOES FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLES, IN THE WRONG WAY
Susan RileyIt will take more than a fistful of new policies — a carbon tax, an antipoverty strategy or a boost in foreign aid — for opponents to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the next election. And it will definitely take more than expressions of outrage and hurt.
If Liberals (or the liberal – left generally) want to disable the Tory machine, they will have to reframe the national debate — starting, perhaps, by substituting optimism, fairness and tolerance of other views for the strident, fear-based, divisive dialogue Harper has used so effectively. This means, in part, not reacting to unrelenting, often unfair, attacks from Harper’s caucus picadors. Instead, “progressives” need to dismiss the yapping dogs and vigorously promote a green, prosperous, generous vision of our future.
But this transformation involves more than a change in strategy on the part of New Democrats (who recently shelved their green agenda in favour of lower gas prices) or
a fresh batch of talking points for Stéphane Dion or a place at the next leaders’ debate for Elizabeth May.
Non-Conservatives have to reclaim the language of political discourse. California academic George Lakoff, in his pithy primer for demoralized progressives, Don’t Think of an Elephant!, writes: “Do not use their language. Their language picks out a frame — and it won’t be the frame you want.”
Lakoff uses “tax relief,” which emerged early in the Bush years, as an example. It suggests ordinary people are oppressed by a greedy state, hostile to their interests. Harper himself has said “there are no good taxes, “ although where else will he find the $50-odd billion he wants for the military in coming years?
While no one likes taxes, they pay for vital public services. They support innovations that strengthen exports, help the disadvantaged and, in the case of a “carbon tax,” reward sustainable behaviour.
As Lakoff notes, conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere have spent years and much money manipulating meanings and refining strategy. By contrast, the liberal – left has been distracted, divided or complacent.
It might be expecting too much of the Liberals, for instance, to successfully sell a carbon tax at a time of economic uncertainty — an anxiety expressed in caucus last week. But to set aside the fight against global warming due to inconvenient timing, as both Hillary Clinton and NDP Leader Jack Layton appear to have done, is to lose before they begin, because they will no longer offer a values – based alternative.
Harper’s hit-men are already framing the carbon tax as another burden on over-taxed consumers. The Liberals’ challenge is not simply “marketing, or finding new language for a controversial policy,” argues Lakoff. It is being authentic. “People do not necessarily vote their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values.”
Progressives are also losing ground in foreign policy. Harper is trying to reposition Canada on the Middle East, for instance, by suggesting that criticism of Israel’s government often amounts to “good, old-fashioned anti-Semitism,” accusing unnamed MPs of enabling this odious trend.
Bob Rae, whose wife is Jewish and who was targeted by anti-Semites in his leadership campaign, responded with logic and, as important, restraint. He called Harper’s smear “grossly unfair,” adding that if every criticism of Israeli foreign policy suggests a disguised hatred of Jews, then “three-quarters of the population of Israel” would be anti-Semitic.
Rae followed Lakoff’s advice: “Avoid a shouting match. Remember that the radical right requires a shouting war and shouting is the discourse form of that war.”
Among the shouters is MP Jason Kenney who, last week, baited Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire into comparing Canada’s refusal to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr with the crimes of al Qaeda, including a disputed charge that terrorists used a 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome as a human bomb.
Dallaire rejected Kenney’s “black-and-white” attempt to frame Liberals as soft on terrorism, but he was nearly drowned out by howls of orchestrated outrage. It fell to Dion to put the contretemps into perspective. He did so incompletely, but calmly. Kenney, he said, “provoked” the politically inexperienced senator, but “on the substance, Gen. Dallaire is right. Mr. Khadr should be back in Canada.”
Dion could have further reframed the issue not as Liberals mollycoddling terrorists (an absurd charge), but as respecting the international law that protects child soldiers — a brave and principled stance, given the Khadrs’ justifiable notoriety.
Ultimately, Harper’s appeal is self-limiting, because his Canada excludes anyone who disagrees. But he will keep pounding away, fuelled by his anger, until someone reclaims not the hammer, but the high ground.