Canada and the USA: Two Countries, Two Elections

Posted June 22, 2011 on 11:57 pm | In the category Canada, Election, Politics | by Jeff

Canada recently completed a national election campaign that lasted all of 6 weeks. While the results were disappointing to many and the campaign was as nasty as some of the U.S.’s, at least the pain was short-lived. Canada’s winner, incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper sat in the driver’s seat as Canadians tried to determine if Michael Ignatieff was “Canadian enough” (he wasn’t) and not an American in sealskin clothing (apparently he was – and lost very badly).

The U.S. faces a similar campaign in tone but not in length. Is Obama a real American? Is he a Muslim in Christian clothing? The campaign will focus in subtle ways on those issues but the real issues may well be his lackluster handling of the economy and his seeming willingness to give away the ranch to the Republicans without a fight. We shall see.

But the real point of all of this is to wonder why we need 20 months of increasingly idiotic campaigning for the American people to make a semi-informed judgment. At the end of the day many – perhaps most – people will vote based on minimal understanding of how we got to where we are and what is in the best interest of the country. Why not do it in six weeks rather than drive a portion of the country insane with a campaign based on moronic slogans, outright lies and subtle racism.

Canada did it in 6 weeks and retained a Prime Minister as mediocre as what we are likely to end up with after 20 months and literally billions of wasted dollars.

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German elections – the nuclear power opponents win a surprising victory

Posted March 28, 2011 on 1:45 pm | In the category Election, Environment, Germany, internatinal Livability | by Mackenzie Brothers

The nuclear disaster in Japan will no doubt have a negative ripple effect on the popularity of the nuclear power industry throughout the world – at least one would hope so as the consequences of a nuclear meltdown begin to hit home – and the first plebiscites on the topic in regional elections in southwest Germany have delivered completely unexpected results. In Baden-Württemberg, where the Conservative CDU party has ruled for almost 60 years, the Green Party, which for 30 years has attacked nuclear power programmes from a gradually-growing minority position, will apparently deliver the next premier, as the Greens received, by a very slight margin over the social Democrats, the most votes with 24%. And in neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz the Greens will have gained a crucial position to rule in coalition with the Social Democrats. There is no doubt that the impulse for this amazing result is German uneasiness with the proposed expansion of nuclear power plants in view of the catastrophe in technologically-proficient Japan.

There is also no doubt about who the big losers are in this. Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU government has been punished for waffling on the topic of nuclear energy, and its weak coalition party, the FDP, lost half its votes in the elections and fell below the 5% level, which gets you into parliament, in one of them. For the FDP, which traditionally supplies the Foreign Minister when in coalition, it could be a fatal blow. For the CDU/CSU it is a rude wake-up call as analysts have determined that many thousands of voters who normally vote conservative switched to the Greens as a protest on federal nuclear power policy. It seems that a stance that was once the home territory of an offbeat protest party finds a great deal of support among conservatively-minded Germans. After all, the potential spread of radiation in Japan pays no attention to political interests. It looks like it may make everybody’s land uninhabitable for a long time in a wide area around the crippled reactors.

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Sweden votes right – wrong

Posted October 5, 2010 on 2:39 pm | In the category Election, Europe, Germany | by Mackenzie Brothers

The federal election in Sweden on September 19 should have sent shock waves through the western world, and it did not go unnoticed as it would have if the Social Democrats had won the election, as they have gotten used to doing since the 1920s. It’s true there have been blips before in their winning streak, but the upset winners have then not lasted more than one term, and the world continues to think of Scandinavia and The Netherlands in general and Sweden in particular as the prime examples of tolerant societies with a strong social net that is designed to make the playing field level for all citizens.

But this time something happened which may in fact spell the end of the Social Democrats’ view of themselves as the naturally ruling party of Sweden after being in in power 83% of the time since 1932. This time the blip did not disappear, but rather rewarded a conservative party that has been ruling in coalition with a group of smaller moderately right parties since the last election by doubling its vote to 30%, with its coalition partners to 49%, thus winning 172 of the 349 seats, just short of a majority. This conservative coalition will thus once again form the government, while the Social Democrats dropped 4 percentage points to only 31%. On its own this is big news, as it may signal the end of socialist power in apparently prosperous northern European societies. However it is not not shocking news.

The shock comes from the 5.7% of the vote, and 20 seats, won by the ultra-far right Sweden Democrats party, running on an anti-immigrant platform that many consider to be Neo-Nazi, and featuring an ad in the final weeks before the vote that showed 3 young women, easily identified as Moslems by their clothes, shoving aside an older woman, easily identifiable as Swedish, as they bully their way to a welfare-benefit counter. This ad would be illegal and unshowable on German or Canadian television, but in Sweden it helped make the “Sweden for Swedes” party the potential kingmaker of the next government as the conservative coalition cannot form a majority without the help of some other party. And it looks like none of the leftist parties will consider being part of it. Anyone interested in looking at the vote results in German elections in the 1920s is welcome to do so.

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Snowbound trip to the Polls

Posted October 16, 2008 on 1:59 am | In the category Canada, Election, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Canucks got out of their igloos yesterday, rounded up the sled dogs and snow shoes and headed off to the polls to make sure that they got their money’s worth out of the $300,000,000 spent on what most thought was an unnecessary election. Well, less than 60% actually did that, an all-time low turnout that proved that the skeptics were right. At the end of the day very little had changed. As predicted, the Conservatives will once again lead a minority government with 1 per cent more of the popular vote and 17 new seats, mostly at the expense of the opposition Liberals, but still well short of the majority it was looking for. But while the Tories swept rural BC and Alberta, where a rubber duck would have easily carried most ridings, they failed to make any gains in Quebec, despite endless aggressive courting, and had no seats at all in Newfoundland or the three major cities Vancouver, Montreál and Toronto. It also could be a victory, that they may soon come to regret as the liberal kings-in-waiting, Michael Ignatief, Bob Rae, and yes young Justin Trudeau, expectantly observe Prime Minister Harper making hash of the economic crisis.

About the only thing the election did prove was how spectacularly stupid the British first past the post vote-counting system is. In Canada there is no reward for getting 49% of the vote in your riding if someone else gets 51%, which makes voting a useless gesture in vast areas of the country where it is clear from the start who will get the most votes in a particular riding. The result is mocking disinterest from the young folks (among others) as they see their green party get 7% of the vote and no seats while the Bloc Quebecois, running only in Quebec, gets 10% of the national vote and 50 seats. What the hell is the point of rounding up the dogs for the long cold trip to the polling booth? Only true satirists could come up with a system like that.

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West to Alaska – the Globe looks at Gov. Palin

Posted September 7, 2008 on 4:53 pm | In the category Election, Election 2008, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

With 100% credit to the Toronto Globe and Mail’s resident poet John Allemang

PALIN COUNTRY

Please call us rednecks, ’cause we’re proud
To be so rough and rude and loud,
And act in ways elitists think
Proves that we’ve had too much to drink
In some dead-end Alaska dive
When, dude, it just shows we’re alive.
We love our church, our kids, our beer,
Can tell you right down to the year
That God put Man upon the Earth,
Know life starts well ahead of birth,
Don’t give a damn about the arts
And stay away from foreign parts
Until the moment that we’re sent
As John McCain’s vice-president

The great thing, when your neck is red?
Nobody cares what’s in your head –
The voters seem to like ’em dumb,
So why not play a hockey mom
Who hunts and prays and procreates
To govern these Unites States?
If you can drive a snowmobile,
The people, bless them, think you’re real,
And in the end who needs a brain?
Just tell your kids they must abstain,
Pretend that when your rule’s ignored
It’s some great gift sent by the Lord,
And prove you’ll go to any length
To make such redneck fault a strength.

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What ever happened to the US election system?

Posted December 10, 2007 on 9:39 pm | In the category Canada, Election, Election 2008, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

It’s not so long ago that the US caucus system designed to choose nominees for the presidential candidates of the only two parties that count came up with figures like Eisenhower, Stevenson, Kennedy, Reagan, McGovern, Nixon. Now it is certainly true that not all of these chaps proved to be such worthy leaders, but all of them were at least experienced politicians or, in the case of Eisenhower, an important historical personality and father figure. You could despair of Reagan and Nixon’s California view of the world or McGovern’s innocence, but their campaigns were veritable Socratic dialogues compared to the reports reaching foreign ears of the level of discussion in the current round of presidential candidate debates.

Recently on what many thought were satirical comedies, European and Canadian television has been running selections from Youtube or CNN debates in which grown men striving to lead a very powerful nation struggled over who was the best Christian or indeed if one of them was a Christian at all. This takes place in a country that is supposed to separate church and state. The Scopes trial was revisited and nobody seemed willing to really defend the idea of evolution. Questions were thrown at the man who was once the leading candidate about whether he wore secret underwear, and the beast that raised questions about real Roman Catholic beliefs, who seemed to have left the stage forever with the Kennedy election, once again raised its weird head. Fortunately Joe Liebermann isn’t in the mix.

What is going on? It is impossible to imagine any of these debaters would be taken seriously as a contender for any important position in any other leading western country with arguments like these. Certainly it is true that at least a couple of these people might have something to offer on some important topics, like health care for the US society or the Middle East for the global one. But they don’t seem to be able to find a forum or get much of a chance to discuss anything of consequence when the only topic that wins you votes is whether your Christianity is better than the next guy’s. Isn’t anybody down there working on a way of changing the electoral system?

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