Saturday, November 08, 2008

How Will Obama Influence Harper?

I think Lawrence Martin has some interesting points - in particular:

Although Stephen Harper is a conservative who is more at one with the Republican philosophy than Mr. Obama's, officials say the Prime Minister will be most accommodating with the new president. Given Mr. Obama's popularity, he can scarcely afford to be otherwise.

The real question is whether Obama's presence in the White House will sway Canadians in directions that lean away from Mr. Harper's desired direction. It's no secret that the Harper Conservatives are tied into the Bush Republicans in a 'joined at the hip' kind of way. High profile members of the Conservatives routinely attend Republican policy conventions and so on.

Certainly, in the short term, Mr. Harper has to tread somewhat cautiously where President-elect Obama is concerned. Nobody is really sure just how Obama will structure his government, or what is real stance on a lot of topics will be. Harper would be foolish indeed to act precipitously in a manner that could easily run afoul of Obama's direction.

That said, traditionally, even US Democrats tend be comparatively right-wing compared to what Canada will elect under the 'Conservative' banner. Obama may not be so different in his policies than Harper - perhaps somewhat less inclined towards the false glory of war, but I suspect the two may share more ideological ground than a lot of Canadians would like to see.

Regardless, Obama will be good for the United States. After 8 years of a regime I can only politely call nasty, Obama represents a more reasoned and thoughtful view of government. One that I can only hope will guide the US out of the quasi-imperialism of the Bush II era in a constructive and meaningful way.

How that will bend Harper remains to be seen. Harper hasn't shown himself to be willing to adapt to compromise to this point, whether the trade balance with the United States is a big enough lever to move Harper remains to be seen. (and, even if it does turn out to be effective, that isn't likely to change the destructiveness of Harper's policies within Canada)

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