#2 What Glass Ceiling?
It feels like this election is being fought in the tabloids instead of the famed town halls of North America. What he or she is wearing has become the opening for the news media in describing the day for the candidates and candidates’ spouses. You would think that American political commentators would be simply relieved that they no longer have to comment on Hilary Clinton’s dreadful pant suits. Instead, the present level of debate has more to do with what Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain are wearing and whether Sarah Palin needs new glasses and is, maybe, showing too much cleavage. All deprived Canadian voters are getting is lots of a warm, fuzzy Prime Minister Stephen Harper modelling vests and boyish sweaters. So what happened to the glass ceiling that Hilary Clinton was supposed to have shattered?
It was a weak metaphor. Canada had a female Prime Minister back in the early 90s. Even if was only her summer job, as Conservative Kim Campbell’s brief tenure was described by Liberal opponents, there was more to report than the fact she was the first woman in the job. What Hilary Clinton did for the American people was also far more than pass in and out of view as a credible candidate for President. Her very determined campaign opened the door for Barack Obama.
Hilary Clinton lost because she was wearing something even more telling than the ugly pant suits. She was wearing the failures of the Bill Clinton Presidency. Even as Canadian Conservative Kim Campbell was a dead candidate walking to an assured loss because of the built-up hatred many Canadians felt for her predecessor, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Hilary could not sustain her campaign against both her past and what Democratic convention delegates s saw as the future. If you are ready to send a woman to the White House, they reasoned, why not go that step further and send a black?
Not that Obama is really an American black. His father was from Kenya and his mother a Caucasian from Kansas and they met in Hawaii. Young Barack then spent most of his childhood in Indonesia. What he knows about the American black experience, he learned as a paid community organizer in Chicago’s far south side. What is he? He is a politician. He combines that political drive with an easy platform presence, a sharp mind and a very photogenic young family.
Canadians envy that American campaign glamour. Conservative leader Harper’s family is reasonably photogenic but boring. Liberal leader Dion is older and his wife and adult daughter get little attention from the media. NDP leader Jack Layton seems to be married more to his party than to his wife Olivia Chow, who is also an NDP member of parliament. The only female of prominence in this Canadian election is Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party. Nobody thinks of her as sexy! She will get her day in the sun during the leaders’ debates but few politicos expect her to really challenge Conservative Peter MacKay for his seat in Nova Scotia. She picked the wrong riding in which to run. It is believed that the reason the Liberals did not put up a candidate against her is that they knew they could not beat MacKay either.
Actually, it would be a shame for May to defeat MacKay because he was the only Conservative in recent Parliaments to show any spark in the sexual sweepstakes. He was obviously bruised by his heiress girlfriend-cum-Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach, when she dumped him along with his party in 2005 to join the Martin Liberals. He had certainly recovered when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice took a shine to him as her unmarried Canadian counterpart after the Conservatives took power. Canadians, luckily, thought it was very amusing when she kept referring to him as ‘Peter’ when telling the media how much she was enjoying a visit to his home province.
The interesting thing about the campaign at this stage (seven weeks before election day) is that the media are going like baying hounds after Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Her first major media interview turned into a disaster as the rest of the media carry on about her flubs. You can take the girl out of the wilds of Alaska but you need far more time to prep her on national politics than just a few weeks.
It looks like the Republicans are going to try to keep her tightly scripted and visual only for the rest of the campaign. She has already proved she can read a teleprompter and she had better not ad lib.
The Canadian campaign is down to four weeks of sheer meanness. Harper is running for a majority government but he cannot tell Canadians because they hardly want him to have that power over them. Jack Layton of the NDP looks like the only leader who could deny Harper the majority he is so desperately seeking. The swing has already started in British Columbia that can make Layton Leader of the Opposition. He just needs to start making serious inroads in Ontario for that to happen. Combined with a revival of the Bloc Quebecois, Harper could be held to another minority.
Stéphane Dion continues in free fall. The Liberal campaign makes the occasional headline but Dion himself is losing badly. The man seems to have lost what political acumen he might have had, blaming his accented English for his problems in English Canada but that hardly explains his dismal showing in the Quebec polls. He is not communicating his passion. As we said to one of his political advisors the other day, Jean Chrètien was also challenged in English but he knew when to strangle somebody.
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