Starring Stephen Harper as Archie Andrews

For an American transplant, viewing Canadian politics is nothing if not eye-opening. The way Harper is now pitting the Liberals and NDP into competition against each other would be endless fun if not for the seriousness involved. The same’s true south of the border; I’d love to laugh at a Newt Gingrich but he’s no laughing matter, and neither is this. Give Harper credit—he has political savvy, or let’s at least say the people around him do. He’s managed to hold onto power in a minority government during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. That’s impressive. All the same, the story plays out—please forgive the following analogy—much like the Archie comics. Harper, then, would be the eponymous character (and, by the way, how is it that Archie’s apparently just so damn hot that two women would kill each other for him? Is he hugely endowed, in either a penile or financial sense? He looks like Carrot Top after a stint in basic training. Sorry, Carrot Top.) Betty and Veronica would then be the Liberals and NDP. Your choice as to whom is whom. And Gilles Duceppe? How about Reggie? Notice I do not say Jughead, nor do I place Elizabeth May in this context, not from any perceived lack of importance but that I honestly don’t know how to make her fit the analogy. Jughead, of course, can be anyone you like, or, rather, don’t.

Just as Betty and Veronica wage open war on each other for Archie’s affections, for years now the Conservatives have played this game, and quite successfully. To put it another way, one could call it triangulating. As a political strategy, it works. Remember Bill Clinton? But what makes good politics often can turn out terribly when seen from a historical distance. 

Remember Bill Clinton?

There’s a reason these two women fight. They are, as we know, mirror images. I don’t want to wake Dr. Freud here, but the implications inherent are probably obvious: being essentially the same, only one can continue existing. Personally, I think of Layton as Betty—OK, since what little hair Jack has left is white, I’m reaching already, but anyway: essentially a positivist, generally sunny of disposition, but do not under any circumstances cross her. That, naturally, leaves Mr. McGuinty as Veronica—hopelessly addicted to wealth and stature, and of course the prize, Archie Andrews. For whatever reason.

Say what you will of Archie/Harper, he’s not without agency. That aw-shucks, small-town demeanor belies a natural cunning no one should underestimate. After all, how else did he find himself in such a position? It wasn’t simply luck. That’s George W. Bush’s story, an entirely different kind of comic—a very graphic novel. 

The stakes are serious and real. Mr. Harper knows quite well what he’s doing, and Mr. Layton might be of a mind to play his game. It’s a terrible idea. Remember who loses Archie in the end, remember whom he ultimately scorns.

It doesn’t end well, Betty.

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About johnwylam1957

I'm a poet and teacher now living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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