January 26, 2006


Don't Cry for Canada (John Nichols, 1/25/06, The Nation)

After the 2004 presidential election in the United States, a lot of liberal Americans looked longingly to the north. Canada, the theory went, was a social democracy with a sane foreign policy and humane values that offered a genuine alternative to the right-wing hegemony that the U.S. was about to experience.

But, this week, U.S. television networks and newspapers declared: "Canadians Tilts Right" and "Conservatives Capture Canada."

As shorthand for the election results that saw Canada's Conservative party outpoll the governing Liberal Party for the first time since Ronald Reagan served in the White House, those headlines may be useful.

But the claim that Canada has lurched far to the right is anything but accurate. [...]

U.S. conservatives, who can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world these days, are entitled to their fantasies. But no thinking American should buy into them.

As is the case with most right-wing "analysis" coming out of Washington these days, the truth is a lot more complex than the right-wing spin doctors would have Americans believe.

In fact, the Canadian results ought to be read as a warning signal for U.S. Republicans.

Here's why:

* The Canadian election was held early because the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had been rocked by a major corruption scandal, which involved the misuse of public funds to promote the government's position on issues involving the relationship between the province of Quebec and rest of the country. [...] In the United States, where corruption scandals have shaken the Republican leadership in Congress -- forcing indicted House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to surrender his position of power -- Canada's vote-the-bums-out response to government wrongdoing ought to be heartening to progressives who would like to see a similar response in November to the corrupt practices of this country's governing party. [...]

Even with their move to the center, the Conservatives did not win anything akin to a majority of the popular vote. Infact, the Conservatives won only 36 percent support. [...] If only 36 percent of American voters back conservative Republicans this fall, Democrats will dominate Congress more thoroughly than they have at any time since the Watergate era and perhaps since New Deal Days.

So we can say definitively that Democrats will not dominate Congress more thoroughly than they have at any time since the Watergate era and perhaps since New Deal Days?

Posted by Matt Murphy at January 26, 2006 12:16 AM

Talk about whistling past the graveyard.

This analysis is so profoundly, hilariouly wrong that for a second I thought it had been written by E.J. Dionne.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at January 26, 2006 1:23 AM

But isn't he simply arguing that Canada, at a mere 35% conservative, is far less so than the U.S.?

Posted by: ghostcat at January 26, 2006 1:48 AM

Aha! So this is the way that Canadian liberals go around shouting, "We won! We won!"... (Should one really be surprised?)

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen what kind of government the Canadian Conservative Party will have and for how long it can govern. One, of course, hopes that it will govern well, and cleanly, and thus show Canadians that it is a serious (and safe!) alternative to a Liberal Party that has totally gone off the rails (though it fared far better than it ought to have).

Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 26, 2006 2:16 AM


He'll never accept that premise -- it's much more comforting to think that the majority of Americans would support your political views if only the people weren't so damn stupid.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 26, 2006 2:16 AM

H.D. is correct. The comparison between a named Conservative party in a multi-party system and the status of conservatism in a two-party system is so manifest as to defy comment, so we are all commenting anyway.

Hey, it's The Nation, so the item was sandwiched between articles about how Stalin really wan't such a bad guy--what could we expect?

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 26, 2006 6:25 AM

If there were no NDP, the Liberals would have to lean very far left to stop them from forming and in doing so would lose many of their votes to the Conservatives.

The NDP was formed for very Christian reaons: to bring socialized health care and social security to Canada. They won that battle and now exist only to waste union advertising dollars and split the Liberal vote.

If the Conservatives can keep working together, the future looks rather rosy.

Posted by: Randall Voth at January 26, 2006 6:52 AM

Oh, my goodness, you mean we lost?

(I particularly like the argument that so many Tory voters voted for reasons other than Tory policies, which is true of course, with the unstated contrasting assumption that Lib and NDP voters were doctrinaire supporters to a man.)

Posted by: Peter B at January 26, 2006 8:22 AM

Another Lefties explaining how the party/candidate with the most votes actually 'lost'.

Posted by: Chris B at January 26, 2006 8:35 AM

Canada, the theory went, was a social democracy with a sane foreign policy...

Ending spending on national defense, and refusing to participate in a system designed to prevent North Americans from experiencing nuclear blasts up-close-and-personally, choosing instead to rely WHOLELY on the good will of one's whacko right-wing militaristic hegemonic southern neighbor for safety, is "sane" ??

The clear subtext of Nichols' piece is:

A) America is the world's "designated driver" - since the U.S. acts more-responsibly, it frees others to act less-responsibly

B) Despite American "military aggressiveness", "empire-building" and "hegemony", despite the fact that the American President, George W. Bush, is "the world's #1 terrorist", and despite the fact that the U.S. launched a pre-emptive and "illegal" war, then committed "war crimes" and "human rights violations" whilst prosecuting said war - the world's free nations STILL IMPLICITLY TRUST IN AMERICAN GOOD-WILL AND INTENTIONS.

So really, it's difficult to see why Nichols thinks that U.S. conservatives "can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world"; every international trend is going our way.

Al Qaeda leadership and recruiting are being decimated worldwide; al Qaeda has worn out their welcome in Iraq; every permanent member of the UN Security Council has denounced Iran's nuclear ambitions, as well as have several Muslim nations; recent national or local elections in Afghanistan, Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine ALL underscore the paradigm shift resulting from an interventionist American foreign policy that is bitterly opposed by the Left, in America and worldwide; high global oil prices undermine the case for NOT drilling in ANWR; and one of America's highest-profile foreign critics, Venezeulan dictator Hugo Chavez, is flaming-out in spectacular fashion, which will further discredit the Castro/Chavez "Leftists-in-opposition-to-America" approach, and enhance the appeal of the Brazilian "Leftists-working-with-America" approach.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 26, 2006 9:47 AM

"U.S. conservatives, who can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world these days"

I'm not sure whether to respond with "Tee-hee" or "Guffaw"...

Posted by: b at January 26, 2006 11:20 AM

Matt, that is the most hilarious title I've ever seen. Tell OJ that it should become the name of a regular category.

Posted by: Brandon at January 26, 2006 11:54 AM

I'm very interested in hearing his reasons on whether Quebec Separatists will do just as well in America as they did in Canada.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at January 26, 2006 2:05 PM