So I live in Canada, a country that kind of has an international repuation as being 'more or less the same as the USA but safer'. Not really the most exciting of public images, but... well, there you have it.
The thing is that the differences between Canada and the US are, to my mind, many. And I don't just mean simple mundane things like official bilingualism or how to pronounce the letter 'z'. Among other things, our governments are organised entirely differently and their roles in society are visulaised entirely differently too.
As much as it pains me to say this: the USA has a progressive government while Canada has a regressive one. Temporarily. I hope. But the truth is that a party supported by barely more than one voter in three has been allowed to radically reposition our country's politics and image. And I find that horrifying and disgraceful.
We really are in a mess politically. Today Stephen Harper announced his intent to suspend Parliament until March. Just as he did last year. Last year he did it to avoid a no-confidence vote. This year, he's doing it... well, not for any clear reason that I can see. Cognisant as I am that each of the other four parties has deep structural and policy problems (and so I suppose to a certain extent you could lump me in with the 'all of them are rotten' group, though I do know who I have voted for and will continue to vote for: I'm as partisan as they come,. flawed though I know my party is), it's tough not to be embarrassed as I see my country slammed as regressive at Copenhagen, shorn of its traditional morality regarding war in Afghanistan and generally seen as behind the times while Obama's America gets swept up in the thrill of its re-entry into the international zeitgeist.
The extent to which this current government is illegitimate and lacks a mandate is what really bothers me. If two in three voters vote against you, you do not have the mandate to radically shift the country's political tides. The way people have been conditioned in this country to accept that a minority government is somehow more 'democratic' than a coalition amazes me. I can't see how our country can avoid coalitions in the future: I think it will take a radical change in the political scenery before any party can even approach a legitimate majority mandate, so I believe we have to get used to the idea that our governments can be made up of various parties, and that their policies will reflect compromise between those parties.
Compromise. Something our current government knows nothing whatsoever about.