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Archive for May, 2011

U.S. Progressives and the Democratic Party: Part II

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In the last post I discussed how progressives form the backbone of the Democratic Party, providing as they do much of the volunteer labor, votes and money that produces victories for that party. In return, progressives get the dirty end of the policy stick, at the federal level at least. The situation at the state level is more nuanced.

This is not to say that there have been no progressive accomplishments since 1/20/09, but most of these have been undermined by Democratic party leaders from the White House on down. There is an Affordable Care Act in place, but it was watered down to suit medical providers, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies. The U.S. combat role in Iraq is ended but the U.S. is still wasting money and lives in Afghanistan and now has another undeclared war on its hands. The White House and Congress passed a stimulus package early in 2009 but it was so diluted to meet irrational Republican objections that unemployment was not dented and remains above 9%.

There is more like this, much more, which leads to the restlessness in the Democratic base described in yesterday’s post. What should progressives do with their frustration.

Labor has one response. Here are some recent remarks by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka regarding labor’s support for Democratic candidates. Trumka warned Democrats that such support would need to be earned from now on:

In what was advertised as a major policy address, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Richard Trumka, denounced Republicans on Friday over their efforts to cut Medicare spending and curb collective bargaining while promising — in a warning to Democrats – that organized labor would show greater independence in politics.

Mr. Trumka, in a speech at the National Press Club, was unsparing in attacking Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, and other Republicans who he said were elected on a platform of creating jobs, but have instead gone to war against public-sector unions to strip them of their collective bargaining rights.

At the same time, he suggested, without naming names, that organized labor would withhold support from Democratic incumbents who had not fought hard enough against

Republican efforts to curb collective bargaining or cut social programs.
“Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate,” he said in a clear warning to Democrats who have not gone to bat for labor. “It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country.

Mr. Trumka whose labor federation has traditionally been one of the most important pillars of the Democratic Party, urged — even warned — Democrats to do more to battle what he described as the Republican wrecking ball.

“It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside — the outcome is the same either way,” he said. “If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them.
This is where our focus will be — now, in 2012 and beyond.”

In other words, Democrats in both Congress and the White House – not to mention governors and state legislators around the country – have not been good coalition partners and can’t expect unconditional support from labor in the next election cycle.

In the last post I quoted from a Daily Kos Diary by Robert Cruikshank that deals with the state of the Democratic coalition. Perhaps without knowing it, Cruikshank in the same diary may have pointed the way forward for U.S. progressives. Elsewhere in the same diary he notes that:

To our north, the neoliberals and progressives do have their own parties. The Canadian election earlier this month gave Conservatives a majority, but it also gave a historic boost to the New Democratic Party, home of Canada’s progressives, while the Liberal Party, home of Canada’s neoliberals, lost half their seats. Those parties have an easier time holding together their coalitions, and that enabled the NDP to break through and become the party that is poised to take power at the next election once Canadians react against Stephen Harper’s extremist agenda.

Still, for a variety of structural, financial, and practical reasons most American progressives are not yet ready to go down the path of starting their own party. And that makes mastery of coalition politics even more important.

Of course, it took 75 years for the CCF/NDP to achieve its current status at the federal level, although it has formed governments in five of the ten provinces and the Yukon Territory. Yes, the NDP was able to gain as much is it has because it could draw distinctions between itself and the right wing parties. U.S. progressives who consider themselves Democrats have to deal with ideological enemies within their own coalition. And at this point in history, there are apparently too many obstacles to forming a viable third party (except maybe in Vermont).

Given the institutional roadblocks to replacing the Democratic Party with a more progressive organization, the solution is to form a kind of New Democratic Party within the old Democratic Party. There is in fact a
congressional caucus sort of moving in that direction.

There actually are people moving in this direction. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) describes itself as:

(O)ne United States Senator and seventy five members of the United States House of Representatives, and is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus. Established in 1991, the CPC reflects the diversity and strength of the American people and seeks to give voice to the needs and aspirations of all Americans and to build a more just and humane society.

The one Senator is of course Bernie Sanders, who is not even a Democrat and who once was elected Mayor of Burlington Vermont as a Socialist. Co-chairs of the CPC (Canadian readers now shudder, as CPC are also the initials of the Conservative Party of Canada) are Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva. Other members include Representatives Tammy Baldwin, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, Peter de Fazio, Jan Schakowsky, Donna Edwards and 67 more. The Entire Democratic Caucus in the House includes 194 members, including newly elected Kathy Hochul of NY 26, so the Progressive Caucus is presently about a third of the total Democratic caucus. But do progressives constitute a majority of the Democratic Party’s base? I do not know and have no data to support this but I suspect that more than a third of Democratic voters would agree with the four, core principles of the CPC:

1. Fighting for economic justice and security for all;
2. Protecting and preserving our civil rights and civil liberties;
3. Promoting global peace and security; and
4. Advancing environmental protection and energy independence<>

These are pretty broad principles and subject to many interpretations. I mean, what democrat, progressive or otherwise could be against any of these four statements? Blue Dogs? “Moderates”? Steny Hoyer or Bill Clinton?
But the CPC shows whose side they’re on when they get specific. Consider the “People’s Budget”, put together by the CPC. If implemented, this proposed budget:
• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021 • Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)
The proposal would also:
• Provide primary budget balance by 2014.
• Create a budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduce public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduce deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
• Allow for outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.
This kind of budget thinking is clearly distinct from both the GOP/Paul Ryan budget and proposals coming from the White House. Paul Krugman puts it this way:

Consider the Ryan budget proposal, which all the Very Serious People assured us was courageous and important. That proposal begins by warning that “a major debt crisis is inevitable” unless we confront the deficit. It then calls, not for tax increases, but for tax cuts, with taxes on the wealthy falling to their lowest level since 1931.

And because of those large tax cuts, the only way the Ryan proposal can even claim to reduce the deficit is through savage cuts in spending, mainly falling on the poor and vulnerable. (A realistic assessment suggests that the proposal would actually increase the deficit.)

President Obama’s proposal is a lot better. At least it calls for raising taxes on high incomes back to Clinton-era levels. But it preserves the rest of the Bush tax cuts — cuts that were originally sold as a way to dispose of a large budget surplus. And, as a result, it still relies heavily on spending cuts, even as it falls short of actually balancing the budget.

So why isn’t someone offering a proposal reflecting the reality that the Bush tax cuts were a huge mistake, and suggesting that increased revenue play a major role in deficit reduction? Actually, someone is — and I’ll get to that in a moment. First, though, let’s talk about the current state of American taxes.
(Snip)
(T)he only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.
(more snipping)
But if the progressive proposal has all these virtues, why isn’t it getting anywhere near as much attention as the much less serious Ryan proposal? It’s true that it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon. But that’s equally true of the Ryan proposal.

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks. To the extent that they care about the deficit at all, it takes second place to their desire to do precisely what the People’s Budget avoids doing, namely, tear up our current social contract, turning the clock back 80 years under the guise of necessity. They don’t want to be told that such a radical turn to the right is not, in fact, necessary.

The deficit hawks Krugman refers to include both Republicans and conservative Democrats. That is why progressives need to stage a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party.

Tomorrow, some thoughts about how to go about doing just that.

U.S. Progressives and the Democratic Party: Part I

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I recently had a good long conversation with a local elected official, who is also a former Peoria City Councilor and a Democrat. As we talked it became very clear that we shared several significant political opinions.

For one thing, we both disapprove of President Obama’s performance in office. My companion though, having been active for decades in Illinois Democratic Party politics, has not been as surprised or disappointed as I have been. It turns out that Barack Obama has been known for some time to be an overly cautious centrist noted for his habit of voting “present” in the state legislature when face with legislation of any measure of controversy.

For another thing, we are both critical of the way the Democratic Party treats its base and its progressive wing (in many places there is no distinction between the two). The Democratic Party is clearly run by its so called moderates, who are actually either conservative or neo-liberal. This particular form of rot starts at the top – see the previous paragraph.

Meanwhile, in the progressive blogosphere and other media, there is more evidence of frustration with the President and Congressional Democrats, and a search for a way out of the current stalemate. Cornel West has stimulated much discussion with his recent remarks critical of the President:

West explained that in his view, Obama has morphed into “a centrist leaning toward the right” who acts as “a puppet of big business” at home and promotes “liberal neo-conservatism” in lands abroad.
Amid it all, West said that Americans of all political stripes are in the throes of a “radical democratic awakening,” at least partially brought about by the lack of change brought by the so-called change candidate, Mr. Obama.

Leaving aside the controversy over the tone of West’s remarks, they have provoked discussion about the tension within the Democratic Party between its progressive and conservative/centrist wings. Daily Kos diarist Robert Cruikshank argues that Democrats need to be more united:

Members of the conservative coalition do not expect to get everything all at once. An anti-choice advocate would love to overturn Roe v. Wade tomorrow. But they don’t get angry when that doesn’t happen in a given year. Not because they are self-disciplined and patient, but because they get important victories year after year that move toward that goal. One year it could be a partial-birth abortion ban. The next year it could be defunding of Planned Parenthood. The year after that it could be a ban on any kind of federal funding of abortions, even indirect. (And in 2011, they’re getting some of these at the same time.)

More importantly, they know that even if their issue doesn’t get advanced in a given year, they also know that the other members of the coalition will not allow them to lose ground. If there’s no way to further restrain abortion rights (Dems control Congress, the voters repeal an insane law like South Dakota’s attempt to ban abortion), fine, the conservative coalition will at least fight to ensure that ground isn’t lost. They’ll unite to fight efforts to rescind a partial-birth abortion ban, or add new funding to Planned Parenthood. Those efforts to prevent losses are just as important to holding the coalition together as are the efforts to achieve policy gains.
Being in the conservative coalition means never having to lose a policy fight – or if you do lose, it won’t be because your allies abandoned you.
I’m sorry, but this sounds like a plea for mercy from the neo-liberals running the Democratic Party. Where is the incentive for the Democratic establishment to ]offer the solidarity Cruikshank would like to see?

In response, Digby (perhaps the wisest blogger in the U.S. left blogosphere) doesn’t completely disagree, but observes that:

Cruickshank is making an appeal to progressives to apply the GOP coalition rules to themselves and stick together, even if the centrists continue to play their games.. And that’s certainly necessary advice. Warring amongst ourselves is about as destructive as it gets. But there needs to be an understanding of how progressives are being manipulated in the Party — and a plan to thwart it — or there is going to be some kind of crack-up eventually. You simply can’t have a working coalition in which a very large faction is constantly used as political cannon fodder. If the anger doesn’t kill you the disillusionment will. The old bipartisan way is dead for now and Democrats had better adjust to dealing fairly and equitably within its own coalition or they’re going to find that they don’t have one.

Exactly.

The trouble with Cruikshank’s analysis is that it assumes that Obama and the right wing Democrats are open to displaying solidarity with the progressive wing of the party. The Blue Dogs and moderates have consistently shown contempt for Democrats to their left. If progressive Democrats want to influence the direction of their party they will have to acquire more power within that party. Gaining and using power is after all what politics is about.
As Kevin Drum has observed in Mother Jones:

American politicians don’t care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early ’90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that’s not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don’t respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that’s not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don’t respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.

I could go on and on. Plenty has been written and said about the tension between the Democratic Party establishment and the progressive wing of the Democratic coalition. The problem has been described and analyzed in dozens – no hundreds – of blog posts, articles, discussions and debates. Progressives know they’re getting messed with, so what can they do about it?

I will try to address that question in my next post. Tomorrow, same time same channel.

Written by slothropia

May 30th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

What New York 26 Says About Republicans

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Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election over Republican Jane Corwin to represent New York’s 26th Congressional District last night. This was the first time a Democrat has won the district since the last ice age ended. Most observers attribute GOP failure in this election to the unpopularity of the Paul Ryan budget, which includes a provision to change Medicare from a single payer health insurance system to one where seniors would receive annual vouchers to pay part of the premiums for private health insurance.

Republicans spin defensively and blame the result on the Tea Party candidate, jack Davis split the GOP vote. But Davis got 8% of the vote Hochul pot 47% and Corwin 43%. Let’s be generous and give 6 of Davis’ points to Corwin. She’s up to 49% but so is Hochul. It’s still a disastrous result for the GOP.

The other excuse Republicans are offering is that Democrats “demagogued” over Medicare. Truthfully stating what a piece of legislation does apparently now counts as demagoguery.

Again, the consensus among pundits is that the Ryan budget and its changes to medicare gave the election to the Democrats, ut this did not happen in a vacuum. The political context the Republicans have helped create since the 2010 election also helps explain their current predicament.

Since their massive victories last November, Republicans at every level have demonstrated and inability to govern seriously. They have naked ly pushed a corporatist agenda in Washington and in every state capitol where they have power. As a result, governors like Scott in Florida, Walker in Wisconsin and Kasich in Ohio have earned low approval ratings and stiff opposition. Recently, a Democrat in Jacksonville Florida was elected Mayor for the first time since the end of the last ice age (again with the ice age reference?). A few weeks ago, voters in a deep red state assembly district in New Hampshire elected a Democrat in another special election.

House Republicans in Washington have joined the GOP circus as well. They were elected because voters were angry with the Democrats over the economy. Republicans also attacked Democrats for reforming Medicare, and many voters accepted the argument. Never mind how fair or logical any of this was. The voters expressed themselves, and they are always right.

Since taking power in the House the GOP has defunded Planned Parenthood, voted to repeal the affordable Care Act and passed the Ryan budget plan with its destruction of Medicare as we know it. No legislation to address unemployment has been considered or passed. The list of Republican silliness is much longer.

So yes, the GOP attack on Medicare played a big part in their loss in New York 26, but it may be that voters there were also sending Republicans about their entire approach to government.

Can they change their approach in time to retain control of the House next year? Will the Teabaggers let them?

Fortunately for the Republicans, the Democrats aren’t sure they want to win next year. How else to explain Steny Hoyer’s insistence today that Medicare is on the negotiating table?

The White House may also giver the republicans some comfort in the coming election cycle. President Obama’s job approval ratings went through the roof with the assassination of Bin Laden, but they are coming back down now. The economy is still bad, and unemployment is still uncomfortably high. If Obama and his party do not begin to show some interest in this issue, they could still lose the Presidency next year, though the GOP shows no sign of nominating a competitive candidate.

Written by slothropia

May 25th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Canadian Conservatives Morphing Into Republicans

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Remember how GW Bush inherited a surplus from Bill Clinton and left behind a ginormous deficit for his Kenyan born socialist successor? The magic of the Bush tax cuts and two expensive and unpaid for wars. The U.S. GOP has apparently taught their junior partners in Canada well.

According to the Globe and Mail, one of many daily rags who favor fiscal conservatism and endorsed Harper in the recent election, the Conservatives are now confessing that they made up all that stuff about balancing the budget in four years:

The revised 2011 budget that the government will present next month will not show a surplus by 2014-15 as promised in black and white in the Conservative campaign platform, even though the government insists it still intends to deliver on the election promise.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he needs time to consult economists and to draft a clear plan to deliver the extra savings Prime Minister Harper promised during the election campaign.

“We will do the strategic and operating review and we will book [those savings] once the review is done. That will get us to balance a year earlier, but is not part of the upcoming budget,” Chisholm Pothier, Mr. Flaherty’s spokesperson, said on Wednesday.

The platform promise was surprising because just a week before the election campaign began, Mr. Flaherty released a budget that would balance the books in 2015-16. That budget forecast a tiny deficit of $300-million in 2014-15. It also promised a plan would be drawn up later this year to see if further savings of $4-billion a year could be found, but these savings were not included in the government’s projections.

Will Flaherty consider raising corporate taxes? Maybe stop the purchase of jets and jails? Pffft! Don’t be silly. That would be responsible.

Will he look for social programs to cut? Offload more of the cost of health care to the provinces? Maybe. But only if the Prairies are flat and Montreal is a culturally rich and cosmopolitan city.

In the words of someone named Thor at Driving the Porcelain Bus:

The Conservatives campaigned on a pledge to show a surplus by 2014-2015. I don’t believe they ever meant to keep this promise and here we are, less than 2 weeks since the election, and the Conservatives are already saying that won’t be able to keep that promise. The way they plan to waste money on unnecessary things (jets with no engines, mega-jails, more corporate tax cuts), they will have to make severe cuts to transfer payments to the provinces and social support programs in order to balance the budget.

The silver lining is that The Cons will pay a steep political price for this little trick. At this rate, (meaningless) polls will soon show the NDP and the Cons neck and neck.

Written by slothropia

May 12th, 2011 at 8:21 am

Canadian Election 2011: The Future of Canadian Politics.

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In his victory speech on election night, Prime Minister was gracious toward his opponents and said he looked forward in the new Parliament to working with the other parties on behalf of all Canadians. Or words to that effect.

But, since taking power in 2006, Mr. Harper and his Conservative party have not been reputed to be eager to collaborate with other parties. As a rule, they did so only when their minority government status made it necessary. We will see if having a majority changes their approach to Parliamentary activities.

Actually, the Conservatives may not behave as their Tea Party cousins have in the U.S. House of Representatives. They may govern relatively moderately. Their agenda, I’m sure, remains the same. Their goal is still to promote the interests of the wealthy and corporations (multi-national and home grown Canadian) and to limit the expansion of redistributive taxation and social programs.

But consider how they achieved their majority. for a time during the election campaign, it looked like they would again win a mere plurality of seats. For a time it seemed possible that NDP momentum would place Jack Layton in the Prime Minister’s chair.

No one should ever accuse Stephen Harper of stupidity, and he and his party were able to pivot in time from fighting the mortally wounded Liberals to attacking the surging NDP. Rhetorically, the Tories spent most of the campaign arguing for a majority but not offering anything to anyone outside their base. The collapse of the Liberals gave Harper an opening. By resurrecting the red scare (orange scare) fear of socialism, he was able to appeal to right wing Liberal voters in much of Canada outside Quebec. This last minute tactic bore the most fruit in Ontario, but was also effective in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. and New Brunswick.

Incidentally, the last minute smear of Jack Layton played right into Harper’s plans, whether it was the Liberals or the Conservatives who were behind it.

I would argue that it was this last minute appeal to right wing Liberal voters (and perhaps some Liberal party members and activists) that put Harper into majority territory. Some of the pollsters caught it and some (Ekos comes to mind) did not. Here is a graphic demonstration of the effect of the Tory appeal to Liberals, stolen shamelessly from Pundits Guide to Canadian Federal Elections:

Pundit’s Guide uses these numbers to argue that vote splitting between the Liberals and NDP did not cause the Liberals’ heavy losses. But they also show how the Liberals bled votes both left and right and that it was ridings like these that gave the Conservatives the majority they desperately needed.

This creates an interesting dynamic within the Big Blue Tent. With an absolute majority in the House of Commons, no matter how slim, the Conservatives can in theory pass any legislation they wish to. The libertarian and social conservative elements in the Conservative coalition have definite ideas about what kind of legislation they should pass. Now, however, they have been joined by Blue Liberal voters, who bear an uncanny resemblance to Red Tories (an endangered species if there ever was one). These are the people who kept Ontario’s Big Blue Machine in power for over 40 years between World War II an the 1980′s. Harper cannot afford to completely ignore them if he wants to repeat his majority victory in 2015.

For the Liberals, this was the worst election result they have ever suffered and has thrown them into an existential crisis. They apparently have no idea of the nature of the crisis they face. Unless the NDP completely under performs over the four years they are at best a third party for the foreseeable future.

They are currently obsessed with leadership questions with an immediate need for at least a parliamentary leader before the new House sits for the first time. Bob Rae may be in the running for interim or permanent Leader, but he is a risky choice and could conceivably cause even further Liberal losses. Some have suggested Justin Trudeau’s name, but his family name would be poison both in Quebec and the West.

But leadership isn’t their problem. They have no purpose and arguably haven’t had one since at least 1984.

Some have suggested a Liberal/NDP merger, but what do the Liberals bring to the table? Progressive Liberals can help unite the left ( and avoid future vote splitting) by joining the NDP, while right wing Liberals (as discussed above) have already shown whose side they’re on by facilitating the Tory majority.

The NDP has achieved a major goal in spectacular style. The polarization the NDP has fought for since the days of Tommy Douglas day has arrived, but it’s not yet consolidated. Making the new alignment permanent will call for a major effort from the NDP Federal caucus and party organization from top to bottom. There will be more media attention paid to the New Democrats performance in the House and to party policy. The newly won constituencies will want results of some kind form their new MPs. Members and their staffs will work long hours on casework and local issues.

It will be a challenging task to get the new caucus up to speed and develop an effective opposition. New MPs need to learn their way around and how to effectively use the resources they now have. Also, the Members have to keep in touch with the riding without missing votes (ask Iggy). And the federal party as a whole has to communicate all the time with the different constituencies.

One thing the NDP will need to develop practical and persuasive policy, especially regarding economic issues. Plenty of policy resolutions already exist in the NDP policy book but they are addressing a larger and more varied audience now. The New Democrats have a chance to drive political debate to the left but along the way they need to offer practical, democratic and popular solutions to problems both long and short term.
There is an opportunity to expand the New Democratic base, but to abandon basic principles for the sake of short term political gains would be suicidal.

The overwhelming victory in Quebec brings all kinds of difficult but welcome problems. Jack Layton and his party will have to meet do all the things that MPs do in other parts of Canada as well as representing Quebec to other Canadians and dealing with all the constitutional issues that never seem to be resolved.

Corporate media Canada (including the CBC) and of course the Liberals and Bloq Quebecois are promoting and expecting the NDP to fail, as Official Opposition and as Quebec’s new party of choice. But they underestimate the Quebec NPD caucus at their peril. Globe and Mail columnist Lysiane Gagnon (not noted for sympathy for the NDP) has written a column about some of the impressive new NPD MPs from Quebec:

(O)n closer study, a number of them are at least as qualified as the MPs from other parties Quebec used to send to Ottawa. Many of the rookie MPs were union activists and/or committed Dippers before they agreed to run. And contrary to the cartoon view that paints the NDP’s Quebec caucus as one big daycare, they’re not all students who’ve never held a real job.

The New Democrats are surely disappointed with the May 2 outcomes in the Prairies and the Atlantic provinces, though some gains were made oin the latter. It seems far from fair that an increase in the vote in Saskatchewan to 32% resulted in exactly 0 seats. A modest increase in the popular vote in Manitoba resulted in a loss of two seats. The next election ,may bring the NDP more success in these provinces. There are also more winnable ridings in B.C.

Proportional representation would have given the NDP, even ,ore seats, behaving tasted so much success with first past the post, will the NDP still be eager for electoral reform?

Finally, regarding the 4th and 5th parties, one wonders what kind of a future the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois have. Elizabeth May has given the Greens their first elected MP, but at a horrible cost. The Green party sold its soul to get a leader with a profile, but she has cannibalized their resources just so she can have a salary, mailing privileges and five minutes of Question Period time once a month or so. She has also driven a big chunk of their membership away and given a lot of votes to the NDP.
The Green Party vote fell by half in this election. It is not clear to me how they get those votes back.

As for the Bloc, I don’t think it is yet clear what the people of Quebec were telling them on May 2. I sovereignty dead? Probably not completely, but it is evidently not a priority for Quebeckers at this time.

So Canadian politics enters a new era, with a new left/right axis and a badly wounded centrist party. Quebec is now represented by a Federalist party for the first time in 20 years, another sign of a more left/right approach to politics.

Can the Conservatives succeed in government without moderating their approach to policy? Can the NDP consolidate their new status and compete for government in the next election? Can the Liberals, Greens and Bloc Quebecois survive or become relevant?

We’ll soon find out!

Written by slothropia

May 11th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Canadian Federal Election: Wrap Up

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First things first: How did my predictions pan out. Let’s have a look at what I said would happen:

And what really happened (pending four recounts) was the Conservatives won with 166 seats, a majority, the NDP came second with 102 seats. Then came the Liberals with 35, the Bloc Quebecois with 4 and the Elizabeth May – oops! I mean the Green Party took 1.

I thought the NDP would do a little better in Western Canada vs. the CPC and I did not see the Liberals doing so poorly in Ontario. I had no clue the Bloc would suffer as much as it did.

I strongly predicted throughout the campaign that the CPC would fall short of a majority. I was wrong. I feel like it’s all my fault but really, it was the Blue Liberals who abandoned their own party in order to facilitate a Conservative majority.

Overall, the Harpists got the result they wanted and worked hard to get. Mind you, there were some disturbing echoes of U.S. GOP tactics here and there before and on E-Day. Robocalls at late night hours claiming to be on behalf of Liberal candidates; Robocalls on E-Day falsely telling voters that polling locations had moved; a nasty and slanderous robocall whisper campaign against Liberal Glen Pearson in London North Centre (whisper campaigns are nothing new but automated slander is a tactic new to Canadian politics).

But it doesn’t seem like any serious investigation of these tactics will occur (I could be wrong) so it’s time to move on and consider what happened and what it will mean for the immediate future of Canadian politics.

The shock of election night was of course the Orange wave that swamped the Liberals, Conservatives and BQ in Quebec. t was stunning when polls showed a post debate surge for the social democrats into first place in Quebec, but as late as a few days before the election, pundits were predicting just a small increase of seats for the NPD. They were wrong too.

In Atlantic Canada, the NDP improved, the Liberals held steady and the Conservatives exceeded expectations, except in Newfoundland and Labrador where they were only able to take the Labrador seat.

Things went pretty much as expected in the West, with the Conservatives dominating, and the NDP gaining some new seats. The Liberals were reduced to 4 MPs.

In the North, the one Liberal seat was lost to the Tories, and the NDP and Conservatives split the other two.

The Conservatives really won their majority with a dramatic improvement in their position in Ontario. Here again, the Liberals gave ground to both of the other two parties, with then Conservatives doing most of the damage. At this point it looks like this result was a product of right wing Liberal voters (not an oxymoron) voting Conservative to stop the NDP.

So that’s a brief thumbnail sketch of the election results. Tomorrow I will look at what this all means for the immediate future of Canadian politics.

Canadian Federal Election Liveblog, May 2, 2011

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Well, twitter was no help in getting early results but everything is closed now and I can pass the news along. Here is the national picture as of 9:14 pm cdt:

9:24 pm cdt: One of the big stories of the night is of course in Quebec.

Right now the NDP is leading or elected in 56 Quebec seats, the conservatives in 8, Liberals in 6 and BQ in 4!!!!! A little over 10% of the polls reporting so changes are likely, but the Orange Crush is alive in Quebec.

Back in a few to look at regional results.

9:30 pm cdt: Gulp. Tories at 151. NDP at 103, Libs at 30, Bloq at 4. Popular vot has Cons at 40%, to 30% for the NDP, 21.7 for the Libs, 3.9 for the Bloc. Looks like a Conservative majority. Somebody hide the Canadian constitution.

9:35 pm cdt: Iggy losing to the Blue candidate. NDP up to 59 in Quebec.

9:38 pm cdt: Linda Duncan barely ahead in Edmonton Strathcona. Cons right a t 154 with 13 ridings to be heard from.

9:43 pm cdt: Tories at 162. In Atlantic Canada it was 14 CPC, 12 LPC and 6 NDP. CPC got 80% in New Brunswick. Any polls that showed the NDP sweeping Atlantic Canada were wrong.

9:48 pm cdt: 301 ridings reporting CPC leading or elected in 162, NDP in 102, Liberals in 33 and the Bloc in 4. No Greens or anyone else. 21 to 10 Cons over NDP in B.C. so far. Oops. May has won a poll on SGI. Greens ar on the board at least for now.

9:57 pm cdt: Only 3 ridings outstanding. 165 for CPC, 104 for NDP, 31 Libs, 4 BQ and 1 other, presumably May in SGI.

BC came through for the Tories. They are leading or elected in 23 to 10 for the NDP and 1 for the Greens. But holy cow, the Bloc ios down to 1 seat.

Shh. Iggy conceding. 10:13 pm.cdt.

Very classy. No mention of resignation yet. 10:20 cdt.

10:24 pm cdt: Iggy staying to rebuild until party kicks him to the curb. Role of Liberal Party to keep the “vital centre” alive.

How does Iggy stay as Leader without a seat?

10:27 pm cdt: 167, 103, 34, 3, 1.

10:29: 168, 102, 33, 4 1.

Heavy traffic at Elections Canada website. Hard to get updates.

Here comes Duceppe. He lost his seat and the Bloc is down to 4 seats as of now. He’s resigning. He says Quebec can expect results from Layton and the NDP. Last chance for federalism.

Layton should speak soon and then Herr Harper.

11:02 pm cdt Paul Wells: Imagine how well the NDP would have done in Quebec if they’d been able to get their vote out.

11:07 pm cdt: 32% in Saskatchewan for the NDP and no seats as of this moment.

11:25 cdt: E. May has finished speaking. I learned a lot about E. May but not much about the environment.

11:29 cdt: Here’s Jack.

Layton says he has called Harper with congrats and wants to work with the new govt to get results for Cdn families.

Congrats to Iggy who campaigned on shared values. Congrats also to Duceppe. We share belief in Democracy and thirst for more just society.

Canadians have asked NDP to take on more responsibility as Official Opposition. Will work hard to earn trust,. Proposition over opposition but will oppose govt when its off track and be positive when possible. Focus on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, fighting poverty, making Canada a voice for peace in the world.

Make progress practically one step at a time.

New relationship with First Nations and aboriginal Canadians. Count on us to make sure Parliament addresses needs of new Canadians.

New Dems will work for Canadian families.

Thank yous. 1. People of Toronto Danforth. 2. Olivia. 3. Rest of family.
4. NDP Candidates and All candidates and parties. 5. Voters, esp young voters.

Confidence in Canada’s future. Tonight’s victory 50 years in the making.

Canada greatest country in the world. Canadians voted out of hope for change and a country where no one is left behind. Election ended but the work has just begun.

Start working now to achieve results for everyone. Tommy said dream no little dreams.
Let’s get to work and not stop until the job is done.

Speech over.

Pretty happy crowd for a second place finish.

Ok, I’m done for the night. Right now it’s 166 Cons, 103 NDP, 34 Liberals, 4 BQ and 1 Green.

If Harper says anything worth repeating I will remark on it tomorrow. And there is certainly some summing up and perspective bringing to do.

Written by slothropia

May 2nd, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Canadian Election: Final Predictions

without comments

A month or so ago, the polling of the Canadian electorate was all over the place. Each pollster it seemed was talking to a unique segment of Canadian society and coming up with different answers. The pundits were largely in agreement that the next parliament would look a lot like the old one.

Then Jack Layton won the debates and took a huge hunk out of the hides of all his opponents. The payoff began to come a week or so later when suddenly polls were finding the NDP in first place in Quebec. A week later the polls were still finding the same thing and the NDP began to rise in other parts of Canada.

Today, May Day, Canada’s social democratic party is in a position to win more federal seats than it ever has come close to winning. Some pundits are even predicting a New Democratic minority government. Say hi, Craig Oliver.

The poll released by Ekos today shows a narrowing gap between the Conservatives and NDP:
Conservatives 34.6
NDP: 31.4
Liberals: 20.4
Green Party: 6.3
Bloc: 5.4 (22 per cent in Quebec)

My final predictions are influenced by but not based on the Ekos or any other single poll. I have also received good input from Pundits Guide and discussion boards like Babble. I have ignored other seat projection sites though some are better than others. I have ultimately relied on whatever little I know about the politics of Canada and its widely differing regions.

Briefly then, here is what I predicted in 2008:

The Conservatives will win at least 101 seats, perhaps as many as 142 and probably 121…
The Liberals range is between 64 and 104, with a probable result of 84.

The NDP should win at least 35 seats and could take as many as 63. The likely NDP number is 46.

The Bloc Quebecois should have no trouble winning at least 50 seats in Quebec, and if all goes well for them, up to 65. I predict their final total will be 55.

There will be 2 independent MPs, one in Atlantic and one in Quebec.

And here is my prediction for the May 2 election:

In Atlantic Canada, I can see the NDP holding what it has and adding a few more, like St. John south Mount Pearl in Nfld and South Shore Ste. Margaret in NS.

In the North, the Liberals will hold onto Yukon, the NDP to Western Arctic and Nunuvat could go either way between NDP and Tory.

In Quebec, NDP sweep, but not total domination. Give the Libs and Tories a few crumbs each and the BQ hangs onto 21. Say goodbye to Justin but we’ll have to wait for Duceppe’s fate.

Ontario, will be won by the harpists, but both the Liberals and NDP will get a couple dozen or so each.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan late movement to the NDP will give them representation in Saskatchewan and maybe an increase of two seats in Manitoba.

Alberta will still be Alberta, but Linda Duncan may be joined by one or two NDP seatmates. Odds are still against more than one NDP seat in Alberta though.

Harper is ending his campaign in Abbotsford??? Why? Is that riding in play? Won’t know for another day, but there seems to be significant movement to the NDP in BC over the last few days. Bottom line, the Conservatives will need to do really well in that province to get their mahority but it looks like it is slipping away from them.

So that’s how I see it. As I have said, i will be live blogging the results tomorrow, but not until the polls close in B.C. and Yukon.

Written by slothropia

May 1st, 2011 at 5:42 pm