Wednesday, November 05, 2008


You know, you get caught up in the cynical aspects of politics so much that it often becomes nothing more than a game, or a show. Attack. Scandal. Strategy. Every now and then you need something to happen that just inspires you and makes you feel good about the democracy. That was tonight.

I honestly can't remember the last time I felt this good about politics and democracy.



  • Hope.

    By Blogger Glen, at 1:32 a.m.  

  • Two For Two. 2 for 2.

    Harper fails.
    Obama wins

    Two for two.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:44 a.m.  

  • Whot? gerry ritz's overwhelmingly reaffirmation by his listeria-free constituents didnt make you believe?

    By Blogger burlivespipe, at 3:48 a.m.  

  • I thought the Wayne Easter one was kind of funny. I also take this opportunity to be very cynical, because I usually am cynical.

    1. This election confirms the persistence of considerable racial divisions.

    Look at exit poll numbers from Alabama (it was similar across the south).

    White voters 88-10 for McCain
    Black voters 98-2 for Obama

    Race is a better predictor of how one voted than party ID! So racial divisions are surely there, you just won't find them by asking people "are you racist?"

    2. Obama had a Karl Rove strategy. For all the talk about expanding the base, Obama's increases came largely among groups that already backed the Democrats: young people, hispanic voters and African Americans. This coupled with a tightly scripted, low press access campaign is the left wing version of Rove 101 (expand the base till you hit 51-52%). Obama has a rather poor record as a bridge-builder and, frankly, has no incentives to reach out to Republicans, since the Dems have control of congress.

    In fact, I would argue that it is congress that will be more moderate than Obama. Obama didn't have coat-tails - the Democrats won 54-44 in congressional races, while Obama only won by 5 points. This also means that Democratic congressmen/women are winning in more conservative areas.

    3. Hundreds of billions into deficit, America just fought an election framed around a series of meta-narratives and a debate over whether to cut taxes or cut taxes more. America has the same media, the same political institutions, the same everything - I just don't see how a "new politics" magically appears (McCain or Clinton certainly wouldn't have done so). That is unfortunate, because it implies America's decline will continue (the rest of the world may relish that briefly, but not after pondering the consequences of that).

    Whatever happens over the next two years or so, however, is about to get crowned as the new magic formula for economics. A recovery that would happen anyway is about to be credited with whatever policies are enacted, so the issues matter a great deal. They just didn't get a lot of airtime (one of McCain's dumbest moves too - he made up ground when he talked about 1. the surge 2. offshore oil drilling, he did badly with his stupid life story tour in early summer 2008.

    4. I really don't think symbols matter. Policies matter. I fail to see how Obama's election makes anything but symbolic progress on the racial equality issue, and can see how the opposite could happen. On CNN Bill Bennett (who is kind of an asshole) spun Obama's election as an argument against affirmative action, for instance (I am not a big fan of affirmative action, but Bennett's reasoning is part of the dangerous "America elected a black president and is therefore not racist" way of thinking).

    5. It matters how a party loses. The GOP was licked pretty hard, but remains able to win if the Democrats face scandals or recessions (the reverse of the past 40 years). The primary system, where the party base drives candidate selection, fueled more by ideological purity than winnability (the latter produces moderate candidates, which dominated American politics in the convention days). The Republicans need to reinvent themselves, but I can almost hear the chant already:
    -"we lost because we weren't Republican enough - we need to hate minorities more"
    -The booing of Obama at McCain's rallies and concession speech are a sign of such divisions, certainly encouraged by candidate McCain, but abetted by the likes of Matt Drudge.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 4:36 a.m.  

  • If campaigns were truly about policy, any celebrations at the end would be rather restrained, because people would understand the trade-offs they'd made, and the fact that some people lost. It is disturbing to me that whether one is white or male or religious is predictive, since it means the policy arguments fall out as irrelevant. Who cares what I, or my political opponent, actually thinks; it just comes down to whether I match the demography of my constituency better than my opponent...

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 7:03 a.m.  

  • I can't think of a better day in politics, either. Sure, it doesn't make the world perfect - but it makes a lot of people feel we're getting there, bit by bit. Great day, man, for everyone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 a.m.  

  • It is not the gaining of power, but the using of it, that is the measure of a man.

    I am a hopeful sceptic, but that could change. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 a.m.  

  • how many days till Tony Reznick's pardon?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:25 a.m.  

  • So can we have Ruby Dhalla run now, please? :-D

    By Blogger mezba, at 9:57 a.m.  

  • Politics can be very partisan. Some people approach it the same way they do sports. They cheer and defend their candidate like they were the proverbial Red Sox and demonize their opponents like they were the proverbial Yankees. The USA, Bush, the Republicans, etc, have always been the proverbial Yankees.

    I don't think we should be cheering just because the Red Sox beat the Yankees. I think we should be cheering because democracy is great, it was successfully exercised once again, and by a very high voter turn-out.

    And since the Red Sox won, my hope is that the world will restrict itself only to legitimate criticism of the USA, its President and its policies, and the criticism and lack of cooperation that was based purely on the Yankees being at the helm will disappear.

    But, like hoser, I don't find this election any more inspirational than the last. If they had debated policy and campaigned on the issues perhaps I would. Instead all we got was stuff about race, gender and religion and empty speeches full of rhetoric, catch phrases and

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:13 a.m.  

  • Harper fails.
    Obama wins

    You have a funny definition of "fail."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:58 a.m.  

  • Sorry to be a downer. It was a beautiful sight to see in the States, but I can't help contrasting that with the sorry state of our politics right now...

    By Blogger The Fwanksta, at 1:00 p.m.  

  • You have a funny definition of "fail."'


    harper has the goal of a majority in order to achieve his objective of structural change in Canada. He failed to get a majority and he isn't going to do his evil objective.

    Of course, you could argue that his objective is to prevent the Liberals from forming a government. In that respect, harper has so far succeeded.

    On the other hand, Obama has succeeded in his personal goal. He has won a landslide victory to be the first African American President of the United States. He would have failed if he had squeaked out a 35 electoral vote victory (2004).

    Yesterday, America gave him a mandate with (CNN) 66% of under-30 voters, and 56% of female voters. McCain merely received a 55% share of white voters and 53% of senior citizens (declining demographies).

    In 2009, Obama has the credibility to speak and walk the middle road (his objective). He owes the democrats, but he has a higher vision. He defeated the conservatives, but he will attempt to build compromises based on the American heritage.

    His timing is impeccable. He is President as the Reagan conservative coalition is failing.

    The 2008 Presidential election is a critical case study for Canadian politicians. It is an example of transformational change where goals and objectives successfully intertwine.

    Just as Stephane Dion is a negative demonstration of a political leader.

    It is a lesson for the harperites who hope to govern like a majority while winning the support of a minority.

    'Yes Sir! There's no need for a platform. Just give us a majority and we will take care of eeeeeverything thing.'

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:04 p.m.  

  • Yes, Jim - we get it. You hate conservatives and think they're assholes. You even think that liberals who don't think the same as you are closet conservative assholes. You're a shrill obnoxious hater fighting the same fight as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly from the left - we got you loud and clear, buddy. You like to sneer and mock and deride and make your disgust and contempt as loud as possible - you're more Sarah Palin than Barack Obama in terms of character. I think we all figured it out a long time ago, actually. Feel free to keep it up, of course - it's your life, and you choose to express it through negativity rather than hope, which is your right. Just a friendly heads up that we already know is all.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 2:35 p.m.  

  • h2h - way to be a party pooper...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:28 p.m.  

  • "he isn't going to do his evil objective"

    Demonizing people is an early symptom of mental illness.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 3:56 p.m.  

  • Last time I felt good about politics in this way was when the Liberals lost power. I don't want to make this a partisan thing, just that after the revelations that came out about the Liberal Party, it was embarassing explaining to friends in Europe why an election wasn't being called, how the vote was staved off, and why voters weren't showing the party the door. The fact that they did was edifying - the system worked.

    By Blogger matt, at 4:04 p.m.  

  • H2H a couple things

    1) Racial Divisions in the south are not surprising. You should see if the same numbers hold true in Indiana or Iowa.
    2) Obama won big in the independent vote, showing that he must have reached out and at least "appeared" to be bipartisan
    3) Your example of coattails is ridiculous. You are comparing two different criteria (the margin of senate seats vs. the percentage of victory). A better example would have been 54-44 to 364-174, thus showing that Obama does have coattails and drove certain senatorial candidates to victory or near victory.
    4) Economic recovery is spurred on by government activity. Properly timed government activity can either lessen a downturn or expedite an uptick in the economy. Bush's problem was that he ignored the economic crisis for months, his stimulus package came to late
    5)The Republicans were licked pretty hard, but even more disturbing for them is that they lost virtually every demographic in which there is an expanding base of people (hispanics in particular). I do agree with you that Republicans will shift to the right and become more Republican, which bolds well for the Democrats in the states.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:17 p.m.  

  • I now have a little more hope in this 'democracy' thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:17 p.m.  

  • "Demonizing people is an early symptom of mental illness."


    You must mean the extremists on the left and right! You know who I mean.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 5:21 p.m.  

  • JimTan: harper has the goal of a majority in order to achieve his objective of structural change in Canada. He failed to get a majority and he isn't going to do his evil objective.

    Harper's goals are to incrementally shift Canada in a more conservative direction, and to replace the Liberals as the "natural governing party". While a majority would make those things easier, they can be accomplished with a minority as well (especially a very strong one like he has now, with an Official Opposition known for playing dead).

    On the other hand, Obama has succeeded in his personal goal. He has won a landslide victory to be the first African American President of the United States. He would have failed if he had squeaked out a 35 electoral vote victory (2004).

    Wrong. There are no partial presidencies. Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether he got 364 or 270 or 538. When Bush got 271, it didn't reduce his presidential powers or ability to do stuff.

    And I'd love to see you explain how exactly Obama's 52% of the popular vote will provide a significantly stronger mandate than Bush's 51%.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:29 a.m.  

  • If Mrs. Harper or Mrs. McCain wore the dress that Mrs. Obama wore, I'm sure I would have read about how horrible it was.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 a.m.  

  • “And I'd love to see you explain how exactly Obama's 52% of the popular vote will provide a significantly stronger mandate than Bush's 51%.”


    Let me try to explain politics to you. The idea is to win by the rules.

    In America, the winner of the electoral college becomes President. Al Gore won the popular vote and lost the Presidency. Bush needed a 3% point margin in the popular vote, to beat Kerry by just 35 electoral votes i.e. the margin of just one state (Ohio).

    In 2008, Obama smashed the GOP with a 180 electoral vote margin. Obama could still have won even if he had lost Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

    Obama's campaign did this by flipping GOP strongholds. Obama won Indiana which had voted Bush by a 20% margin. The national popular vote was irrelevant because Obama had found the winning coalition in the states that could be turned.

    Obama has an unchallenged mandate to rule because of this display of political power. It's like Justin Trudeau had taken two years to captain the LPC to a 200 seat majority.

    The mandate for change is a different matter. Obama claims that on the basis that the overwhelming majority of Americans want change, and he won. So, it's going to be his version of Change.

    In addition, he won overwhelmingly in the growth demographics (young and Hispanic voters). He beat McCain by two to one among the under-30.

    Finally, the Democrats have almost 60% of Congress. They hold the centre.

    This is a very dangerous moment for the GOP. It's one thing to lose a Presidential contest between two men. It's another matter when you lose the ideological contest.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 3:46 a.m.  

  • "This is a very dangerous moment for the GOP. It's one thing to lose a Presidential contest between two men. It's another matter when you lose the ideological contest."

    Explain to me, specifically, where the GOP lost an ideological contest. The GOP lost its reputation for good economic management, something that will take some fixing.

    -Obama was for tax cuts (despite deficits). He was also for lots of new spending, which isn't exactly contra the Bush approach.
    -Obama and McCain's ultimate position on Iraq was very similar (it was a debate about whether to withdraw with a timetable or an ad hoc basis). Most people would suggest McCain won the argument on the surge too.
    -Obama is for the maintenance of a national security state, and voted for FISA.
    -Divisive social issues remain divisive, and even in liberal California you can pass a ban on gay marriage.
    -Many of those new Democrats in congress are conservative, and won by appealing to conservatives, and now their political survival depends upon conservatives voting for them.

    You are actually right, jimtan, that time is on Obama's side because of where his coalition is. The Republicans do need to change - Bush in banking on working class voters made a bad move in the long-term.

    That said, Obama's coalition is unsustainable - look at the divergent views and economic interests of its core members (millenials and African Americans). If the Republicans are smart they will break that coalition apart - not by fundamentally changing their ideology, but by marginal change and effective targeting.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 3:54 p.m.  

  • "You are actually right, jimtan"

    Of course, I am. I backed Obama from the beginning. You backed Clinton because Obama 'had to be stopped'.

    On Tuesday, Obama delivered BIG for himself, his community, the Democrats and the nation.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 4:21 p.m.  

  • Hose,

    The GOP is losing the ideological battle. It's not just about the failings of the Bush administration.

    It's obvious when the Democrat's own 60% of Congress. It's not just about a new Commander-In-Chief. The Democrats did it by holding the political centre.

    Americans haven't taken a left turn to socialism because of the crisis. But, a revolution has began among the political combatants (Donkey vs. Elephant).

    The brilliant Obama was the right man for the historical moment. The other side of the story is about GOP disintegration. The soul (social conservatives) and the brains (fiscal conservatives) of the party are unable to maintain cohesion.

    The McCain/Palin team was a disaster, and symptomatic of this schism.

    It was never more obvious when the outlier John McCain gave his concession speech. In front of the party faithful, he took all of the blame, praised Obama, didn't pump the crowd for the next battle, and finally bid them Adiós.

    How did they win?

    “Nothing demonstrates this reversal as clearly as the Democrats' ascendance in the suburbs and among the moderate, college-educated voters who dominate them. Obama won 50 percent of suburban voters, three points higher than Sen. John F. Kerry's showing in 2004 and the most by a Democrat since exit polling began in 1972, swelling his margins in a number of battleground states...

    The biggest region where McCain improved on Bush's numbers was the spine of Appalachia, running from Tennessee up to southwestern Pennsylvania, where he managed to flip some depressed steel counties. But these gains were in places that are, in many cases, losing population -- the electorate's share of white voters without a college education dropped by four percentage points this year, compared with 2004.

    And McCain's gains were more than outweighed by his losses in growing metropolitan areas, suggesting that the story of the 2008 election was the Republicans' demographic weaknesses, not Obama's. In Pennsylvania, the southwestern counties of Washington, Fayette and Beaver gave McCain a net increase of 10,000 votes over Bush's 2004 performance, but he lost the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County by 41,000 more votes than Bush.”

    Why did they win?

    The GOP was ideologically bankrupt in economics. But, there is an important trend. After 20 years, Americans are learning to compartmentalize their religious and economic imperatives. In California, they approved a gay marriage ban by 52%-48%. But, voted Obama by a 24% margin.

    This is a dangerous moment for the GOP. Should the grand coalition fail to regroup, the GOP is likely to be taken over entirely by the social conservatives. Can you picture Sarah Palin as Presidential candidate and Joe the Plumber as her running mate.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:32 a.m.  

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