Green with envy over America's black messiah(National Post January 16, 2008)


Barbara Kay, National Post 

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Whenever Canadians elect a minority government, pundits caution the opposition against forcing another election too hastily. They always claim it's voter exhaustion, but they're more likely projecting their own fatigue, understandable after many weeks of 24/7 election coverage. And yet, Canadian journalists seem to have limitless vicarious stamina for America's interminable 2008 presidential selection process.

The recent Iowa and New Hampshire diversity-themed presidential primaries were Canadian pundits' favourite reality show: Would Mormonism be voted off the Republican island? Would it be gender or race dictating the ultimate Democratic Survivor?

Diversity is the liberal media's catnip. Canadian observers are particularly excited that finally both a black man and a woman have an excellent shot at the presidency. Yet one senses competitive frustration. They beat us to it! After all, Canadians 'R Diversity! Theoretically we're sooooo ready for a woman, a black, an aboriginal, a Jew, a gay, a Musl…, um, or a gay as PM. But while we talk the talk, those chutzpadik Americans seem to be walking the walk.

Canadian candidates for party leadership are invariably middle-aged heterosexual white guys of Euro-Christian descent, and the only modern "identity" issue is who speaks the other official language better. American politics were similarly undiversified (JFK was Catholic, big deal, we've been there, done that), but this American breakthrough surge -- colour! -- is an embarrassment to politically correct Canadian politicos.

Wistfully, they contemplate the easy journalistic pickings across the border. Is Obama black enough? Is Hillary manly enough? These questions excite them. Check out a beaming Obama on the cover of Maclean's this week, and the awestruck five-page tribute within.

Or take veteran political commentator Lawrence Martin, who is normally a cool and detached Canadian journalist. His Globe & Mail column

of last Thursday was a giddy political love letter to Obama's image: "Mr Obama at 46, somehow makes [48-year old Stephen Harper] appear much older."

As if looking older (and -- implied -- so much paler!) weren't crime enough, Mr. Harper is also a nationalist. What a fogey! Indeed, another nationalist "dinosaur," John McCain, makes Martin laugh (literally: Martin attended one of his speeches): "[McCain] said -- this is not made up -- that the disparate band of Islamic terrorists represent the greatest threat to America in its history." Martin means this to read as funny -- man, these old Commie-fighters are so 2002 -- except, of course, Mc-Cain is right.

But the really unnerving heart of the column is the mighty exertion Martin expends on appropriating Obama as a kind of honorary Canadian. He offers us a misty vision of Obama as Canada's alter ego: "Young Canada, like him, is diverse, cosmopolitan, internationalist, multi-ethnic, multilateralist, less ideological, more anti-war."

Note the word order: "diverse" above all. Note the lack of specificity: "Multi-ethnic" and "anti-war" are not policies. Note the failure to consult Canadian history: The Parti Quebecois thought Andre Boisclair was "Young Quebec," so to speak, and elected him leader for exactly the Obama-esque qualities Martin cites (and of course his gayness, another ace in the diversity deck) rather than experience and policies, and look where that got them: third place in the last Quebec election.

Do Obama's gushy diversity fans really believe they know how he would react to a terror attack on U.S. soil? That's what would keep me up nights as an American voter, not whether he is black enough to assuage my white guilt.

Diversity is the natural outcome of an open society, but it takes time. If diversity does not appear organically as a sidebar to character, experience and worthy policies, rather than as a reason in itself, it is no healthier for democracy than ceding the election to the wealthiest candidate.

"Hope," "change" and "It's time for a new beginning," Obama's signature rallying cries, are meaningless rhetoric. But huge numbers of Americans have bought into what is looking like a messianic unity fantasy. As Canadians with a different history, our media should make every effort to understand what is going on, but with a little more detachment and a little less mindless adulation than we have seen so far.

bkay@videotron.ca