ESR's Eleventh Annual Person of the Year
By Steven Martinovich
Given some of the surreal depths that 2006 descended to, it's not surprising that we had some very interesting nominations for our Eleventh Annual Person of the Year. As an indication, Daniel Ortega received a vote. Mr. Ortega will have to be content with the presidency of Nicaruaga because two other politicians took the top prize, one a returning champion and the other a new member of the club.
U.S. President George W. Bush was a surprise winner given the difficulties that he experienced in 2006 both with his conservative base and political forces in general. The continuing controversy over Iraq has dragged down his approval ratings and given critics plenty of ammunition with which to attack his administration. Worse, some of the blame for the poor performance of the Republican Party in the November mid-terms can be laid at the feet of the president and his policies. Bush has become so unpopular that many in his party, who previously defended him even as he pursued policies which were decidely un-Reaganesque, have begun to openly question the course he has taken the United States.
George W. Bush is "willing to stand alone for what he believes" -- Voter
And yet, despite that, it must be acknowledged that the setbacks of 2006 have done little to diminish Bush's stature -- for better or worse -- in American politics. Although Democrats have regained control of Congress, it is likely that they often be reacting to someone that many consider to be a "dead duck" president. It is his agenda of the past six years that will be debated over the coming two years. It is the policy decisions that he and the Republican Congress of 2001-2006 made that the Democrats will be dealing with. Whatever Bush's legacy ultimately is, and we believe that history will likely be kinder to him than current opinion suggests, he has made an indelible mark on the global landscape and deserves, once again, to be ESR's Eleventh Annual Person of the Year. Congratulations and welcome back Mr. President.
On January 24, 2006 something happened in Canada that hadn't been seen since the late 1980s: the Liberal Party was out of power. Most experts wouldn't have picked Stephen Joseph Harper to be the man to lead Canadian conservatives out of the political wilderness. For most of his career Harper was known as a policy wonk who didn't exactly get hearts beating faster. He was a Canadian politician who was both socially and economically conservative, a combination that doesn't exactly yield large vote totals in a nation described as clone of its European counterparts.
Stephen Harper should win for creating"a presentable and coherent alternative to the Liberal Party of Canada" -- Voter
And yet Harper managed to do what others before him, such as the highly regarded Preston Manning, failed to do: knock off the Liberals. Granted, voter fatigue with the scandal-plagued Liberals and a less than inspiring Paul Martin played important roles in Harper's victory, one it must be noted only resulted in a minority government.
But great journeys begin with small steps and despite the vulnerable nature of Harper's government he has already had an impact. He's made the selection of Supreme Court justices more open, he's working on turning the Senate into an elected body, refused to swallow the climate change orthodoxy, shown support for Israel, took a strong stand for Canadian sovereignty, and perhaps most importantly, reaffirmed Canada's role in reshaping Afghanistan.
We don't know how long the Harper government will last -- there are rumours that Canadians may be going back to the polls very soon -- but we're happy that a conservative government finally came to pass. Stephen Harper proved that was still possible to run in Canada as a conservative and actually be considered a viable alternative to the Liberal Party. Regardless of the length of his tenure, he has introduced a new conservative-infused language to Canadian politics and with some luck many of the ideas his government has promoted may become part of our political landscape. Congratulations and welcome to the club Mr. Prime Minister.
Steve Martinovich is the editor-in-chief of Enter Stage Right.