Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Natural Governing Parties

This post isn't about Canada, believe it or not. I watch the ongoing bloodshed in the middle east with dismay. As someone who thinks of himself as pro-peace rather than pro-one side in this conflict, any escalation of violence is a definite step backward. The question I think that bears asking is how did we get here? The answer I've come to is that the natural governing parties in both countries have collapsed. In Israel that would be Labour, in the Palestinian Territories that would be Fatah. In both cases, these parties had great electoral success in the past and have recently been overwhelmed by more more adversarial parties.

Let's start with Fatah. The demise of Fatah which began in earnest with the death of Arafat and continued with the election of Hamas in parliamentary elections signaled the end of an era in Palestinian politics. Fatah had become an ineffective, corrupt organization which was out of touch with the people it claimed to represent. Hamas, whether helped or hindered by their violent foreign policy, did a much better job creating a functioning political party, providing social services to the Palestinian people and actually bothered to run a campaign in the election. No surprise, Hamas won. Unfortunately, the Presidential system meant that a Hamas Prime Minister had to some how share power with President Abbas of Fatah. This was never going to be easy. It soon became impossible. The loose connection of kinship and common cause which had united the Gaza Strip and the West Bank snapped in a bloody civil war. Since then, Fatah from its base of control in the West Bank has attempted to negotiate or at least start negotiations on behalf of all Palestinians. Hamas and the resident of the Gaza Strip have been left to stew by the world, starting, if we are to be fair, with their own President in Ramallah. Fatah's failure to understand that they were no longer the voice of the people in the occupied territories in large part led to the crisis we have today. Hamas cast out by the world, has been less willing, if that's possible, to restrain their more violent tendencies. What role Israel and the world in general had in precipitating that crisis can and should be debated. The picture remains of a desperate party clinging to power no longer has with disastrous consequences.

In Israel, the fall of Labour over the last decade also influenced the crisis we have today. The failure of the Camp David process at the end of the Clinton administration was the last nail in the coffin of the Labour Party. The country is simply no longer the communitarian nation of its founding. Labour has not come to grips with this and the political sands have shifted under their unmoving feet. Ariel Sharon's split with Likud and formation of Kadima near the end of his Prime Ministership has not marginalized Likud as may have been expected. Instead right-wing Likud appears to be the principle opposition to a centrist Kadima in the upcoming Israeli elections. Labour found their many of their pro-peace policies taken by Kadima and has suffered under the leadership of Ehud Barak to find any contrast with its governing partners to the right. Kadima having elected a woman with limited national security credentials for a country where almost everyone's served in the army, now must prove to Israelis that it has what it takes to deal with Hamas. Every rocket which lands on Israeli soil impugns the withdrawal startegy which was started by Prime Minister Sharon and continued by PM Olmert. While the scandals surrounding the outgoing Prime Minister may have more to do with any Likud victory in upcoming elections than anything else, Kadima certainly needs something reinforce its national security credibility with the Israeli people with Sharon's instant credibility gone with his stroke. The familiar hand of Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, may provide Israelis more comfort in these uncertain times if Kadima does not change its public image. The pretense for the military action, and it is little more than a pretense, is the rockets being fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The reality on the ground is that rocket attacks have posed an intermittent threat to Israelis for years. This does not make the threat less deadly, however, it does beg the questions why now and why on this scale? A smaller scale retaliatory strike would have made just as much strategic sense if not more. I simply cannot believe that if Ms. Livni's opposition was on the left and not the right, from Labour and not Likud, that the Kadima government would have taken this action. Labour's fall from dominance is in my view intrinsically linked to this conflict. Thus with the old actors weakened, new actors are trying their hands with deadly results.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lessons From 2008 Part 4: Europe

How is Europe a lesson? Well, okay I couldn't think of a folksy trite phrase to sum up the year across the pond but really what happens in Europe isn't staying in Europe these days so here's a quick recap. Things are going wrong and fast.

7. Europe: Yappa's got a nice piece here on the impending doom and gloom. Here's the deal (and by deal I mean massive oversimplification). While the economic collapse seemed to start on Wall Street and the United States housing market, the dirty little secret is that good old left leaning inteventionist Europe bought this subprime stuff hook, line and sinker. This is particularly true in the UK where Europe's problems began. British banks started failing along with Bear Stearns back in March. Simultaneously, the seriously overheated British housing market froze on the spot. Now, in and of itself this is bad news for the global economy. For Iceland, this meant that all the money Icelandic banks had been raking in trading asset backed credit paper (ABCP) all of a sudden disappeared. The Icelandic economy basically went off a cliff. One down. Ireland's economy hit the skids hard as well, as the Celtic tiger was declawed by the subprime mess.

In Eastern Europe the crisis hit hard as well. In particular, booming Latvia was hit hard. The IMF has now bailed out the Baltic republic. Yes, Virginia, the IMF bailed out a member of the European Union. There was a time not long ago when Latvia was being talked about as one of the next countries to join the European Monetary Union (also known as the Eurozone). Now... not so much. If Latvian banks fail expect ripples to spread through the other Baltic republics as well as much of Scandanavia (where the Swedish and Danish crowns have already been hit hard). Hungary too has imploded and also received IMF help. Make that two EU members on the IMF dole. Ukraine (not EU) is also facing tough times as the heirs of the Orange Revolution prepare to tear each other apart in elections and the Russians once again threaten to turn off the gas. The less said about former Western darling Georgia (site of the Rose Revolution), the better. The only good news right now is that the oil prices that were threatening to choke off cheap air travel between and Eastern Europe and Western Europe have fallen, allowing all those Eastern Europeans doing work in the UK and Ireland to keep their jobs in the West and homes in the East.

Politically, well... the Lisbon Treaty died when the Irish government was forced to actually consult the people. Damn voters always get in the way of democratic progress! Seriously, the EU is about as democratic as the Liberal Party of Canada. Sure, the measures are there, but they'd rather not use them. Oh and then there's Belgium. The good news: the Belgians found a Prime Minister in March after nine months of separatist related wrangling. The bad news: he didn't last the year. Every time someone says we should do more to weaken the federal government in order to appease Quebec separatists, take a long hard look at Belgium. It will soon be the Republic of Flanders and the Kingdom of Wallonia if current trends continue.

So what's the lesson. I guess it's this. Everytime a leftwing politician tells you they do such and such better in Europe, smile and thank the powers that be that you live in Canada.

Friday, December 26, 2008

World Junior Day

Good win by Canada today to open the annual World Junior's. A dominating 8-1 (should have been 8-2) win over the Czech Republic. The tourney pretty much went to seed today with the US, Russia and Sweden all posting victories. While Canada was impressive in winning so easily over a usually decent Czech team, Russia has to be concerned winning only 4-1 over Latvia. Russia usually overwhelms with firepower. A 4-1 victory over a far weaker Latvian team has to disappointing. The American and Swedish score lines were more to form. US pounding Germany 8-2 and Sweden getting past the pesky Finns 3-1.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lessons From 2008 Part 3: Keep 'em Laughing

Onward with my rules from the political year past.

8. Keep 'Em Laughing: Sometimes a little levity is more useful than the most vicious attack ad. Just ask Sarah Palin. Sure, her fortunes were floundering after a couple of bad interviews but it was Tina Fey's imitations of the Alaska Governor that drove the point home. Fey, often by doing direct quotes from the Governor, got Americans to understand just how absurd her candidacy really was. John McCain had his own run-ins with late night comedy. Most notably his snubbing of David Letterman when he "suspended his campaign" in September. Unfortunately, the plane to Washington turned into an interview with Katie Couric down the street. McCain's campaign suspension died with his no-show on the Late Show.

In Canada, Rick Mercer did not provide any death blows as he delivered to Stockwell Day all those years ago. However, one could argue that Stephane Dion's youtube style response to Stephen Harper's national message was its own kind of humour.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Europe Still Has An Identity Crisis

Riots in Sweden's third largest city, Malmö. Having lived just outside of Malmö for almost a year, I can't say I'm surprised by this. In the course of my education in Lund, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation on immigrant integration from a city planner in Malmö. She talked about the need to find away to integrate the immigrant population with the rest of the city. Rosengård, where these riots are taking place, is a great example of why governments can't do everything. It was built as a kind of state-of-the-art public housing and quickly turned into an immigrant ghetto. The city of Malmö did interesting studies on people's daily travels and found that people living in Rosengård rarely left that part of the city, with the possible exception of going to and from work. The chance for meaningful interactions with native Swedes is remote. This kind of isolation can only spell trouble. It doesn't justify the criminal behaviour. However, I don't see these kinds of riots ending in Europe until Europeans reconcile themselves to immigration in a real way. Sweden has been rightly lauded as having one of the most progressive systems for new immigrants who live in the country. However, this has not translated into integrated immigrant communities. This goes to the very core of European nationalist identity politics and it may take a couple of generations before these kinds of riots are a thing of the past.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons from 2008 Part 2: Know Thyself

I continue with my year in review with the lesson learned hardest by the Liberal Party of Canada and the GOP down south.

Run On Who You Are: The Grits forgot themselves in a few ways this year. First, the party forgot its base. The Liberals sealed their electoral fate when they failed to vote down changes to the Immigration Act despised by many new Canadians. This inaction on a core issue of strength for the Liberal Party signaled the beginning of the end for Stephane Dion. The rest was completed by the launch of The Green Shift weeks later. Liberals forgot that we are a party of incrementalism and pragmatism. I cannot name the Liberal leader last elected on radical policy shifts. While the Red Book was a sharp departure from Conservative policies of the day, it represented in its opposition to the GST and free trade a return to old principles. While Chretien pragmatically backed away from these promises, the Red Book, like successful Liberal platforms of years past promised a steady hand and good government that would work for Canadians best interests. Often in words not more expansive than that. Stephane Dion's great miscalculation in The Green Shift was that the Liberal Party is a small-c conservative party, at least on the campaign trail. Few of the major policies brought in by the party have been platform items (repatriation of the Constitution being an obvious exception). Particularly in the most recent era of Liberal government, Liberals succeded by being the party Canadians trusted not to screw up the country; in other words keep things pretty much on the same course. It may be boring, but it works. The Liberals forgot that boring is beautiful in 2008. They lost as a result.

To a lesser extent, the Republican party forgot itself in 2008. First, they nominated John McCain. McCain is not a modern Republican. He just isn't. He never was the guy who was going to excite the all-important Republican base. The Republican party since Reagan's election in 1980 has been a party of national defense and national morality. McCain fulfilled the defense criterion, he failed to get the Moral Majority. McCain never spoke the language of evangelicals and he has put his party in perilous danger of losing them as a voting block. Now, I don't criticize McCain for not being a radical social conservative, I criticize Republican Party for failing to recognize the key to their successes. All credit should go to Barack Obama for his campaign, but this election was I think less satisfying for some on the left because Obama didn't defeat the GOP of 1994 or 2004 but a withered shell of its former self. I don't know that the Republicans could nominated a better candidate, but they never had a chance with John McCain. Much as Democrats need to talk about the economy to win, Republicans need to talk about social issues.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rep by Pop to Come to Ontario?

Harper appears to have backed down on yet another issue. Originally Harper's plans for redistribution would have seen Alberta and BC get equal representation to Quebec while Ontario got the shaft. Now there appears to be a thaw, and Ontario will get 21 more seats according to McGuinty. Aside from the very un-conservative idea of expanding government in a time of so-called belt tightening in other departments, this is a long time coming. It would mean the elimination of 170,000 person ridings like Brampton West. So, you ask, how would this break down within the province? Well, that depends. Northern Ontario currently has 10 seats but even under the new formula would only really need nine. However, there will be significant upset in Northern Ontario if they get the redistribution shaft so there may yet be maneouvring on that count. Here's my calculations based on rep by pop (current seat totals in brackets):

Cottage Country (basically Parry Sound to Peterborough): 11 (9)
Eastern Ontario (not National Capital Region): 8 (7)
905 (limited to Durham, Halton, Peel and York (southern) regions: 29 (20.5)
Northern Ontario: 9 (10)
NCR: 8 (7)
Southcentral (Hamilton to Niagara): 15 (12)
Southwest: 21 (17)
Toronto: 26 (22.5)

The half riding in the current total for Toronto and the 905 is Pickering-Scarborough East which would be an obvious target redistribution. Clearly, the big winner is the 905. However, Liberals should be extremely worried about the prospect of 7 additional seats south and west of the GTA. That part of the country has become increasingly infertile land for the party in the last couple of elections. Toronto is likely to be the biggest headache for the mapmakers. The tendency has been to separate the old boroughs of Etobicoke and Scarborough from the rest of the city. Maintaining this tradition could prove difficult. The natural rivers and ravines which dot the city also provide challenges for the mapmakers.

Side Note: This will also provide the basis for an expansion of the Ontario Legislature. As the Tories under Harris bound electoral districts outside of Northern Ontario to Elections Canada boundaries. The City of Toronto could also see a redistribution as council seats and school board seats are, for the most part, based on federal riding boundaries.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lessons from 2008: Part 1: Know The Rules

As the political news goes mostly underground this time of year, I figure it's not too early to start on my 2008 recap. As was the case last year, I will do it in the form of ten things we should have learned this year. Starting with number 10.

10. Know the Rules of the Game: This one comes to us from the American primaries for the most part. Particularly, the once overwhelming favourites from New York, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Start with Rudy. Giuliani ran perhaps the stupidest campaign in American history. Why was it so stupid? He lost without ever really competing. And not in the Fred Thompson "I can't be bothered to campaign" way of not really competing. Giuliani thought he could wait out the traditional early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Problem is, that while Iowa and New Hampshire do not send an overwhelming number of delegates to the Republican National Convention every four years, they do dictate the rest of the race. Giuliani went from front runner to invisible when he refused to engage in retail politics in the snows of Davenport and Concord. Giuliani had lost so much momentum by the time the race he had chosen as his launching pad came around, he got beaten badly in the winner take all Florida primary. Not only is Florida not a traditional early primary state, the sunshine state had been penalized by both the GOP and the Democrats for moving up their primary dates. This meant that the far more fascinating Democratic race was not in Florida at all, while the GOP competed half-heartedly for half delegates. Rudy lost because of a strategic blunder before he could lose for being an essentially liberal Republican with questionable personal issues.

Hillary lost in equally stupid fashion. While the histories of the primaries seem to focus on Iowa, New Hampshire, Super Tuesday, March 4th and Pennsylvania, Hillary lost the race outside of these key dates. Yes, she finished third in Iowa which ended any talk of a Clinton corronation, but she won New Hampshire and earned a draw on Super Tuesday. It was between Super Tuesday and March 4th that she lost the Democratic nomination. See, Hillary's advisers failed to read the rules and believed that the Democrats allocated delegates based on a winner-take-all system. Of course, Dems use PR which made her victory in California on Super Tuesday little more than symbolism. Symbolism was not enough to get Obama out of the race, and as the race continued, Obama, who was prepared for a long fight, won 11 straight contests, opening an insurmountable lead in the contest. Hillary's fire walls of Ohio and Texas merely served to postpone the inevitable as she lurched from desperate "3 am" tactics in Ohio to desperate "kitchen sink" tactics in Pennsylvania. In reality, she lost the Democratic primary in Virginia and Louisiana and Washington state and the eight other races that Obama won by huge margins. Obama understood that a big win in Idaho on Super Tuesday could overwhelm a narrower Clinton victory in New Jersey the same night. Clinton didn't understand the rules and she lost.

On this side of the border, the criticism can be levelled at the Green Party of Canada. The Greens still don't seem to get how to win seats in a First Past the Post system. Outside of some positive results in a band in Ontario stretching from the Muskokas to Lake Huron, and the Liberal gift in Nova Scotia, the Greens really didn't compete for seats in most of the country. Will they get more money from the per vote subsidy as long it survives? Sure. Will it ever translate into seats? Not without a change in philosophy. A fight everywhere philosophy makes sense for established parties, it doesn't for a fringe party looking for credibility. Oh, and who's brilliant idea were the 4am campaign rallies? If the Greens bothered to follow the rules and acted like most small parties have in Canada, they would have seats in the Canadian parliament. The potential is clearly there in rural Ontario for a breakthrough, but it may involve sacrificing a couple of fifth place Quebec candidates.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crisis! Crisis! Crisis!... oh nevermind

Word today that as has been expected since Harper prorogued parliament, the Liberals will find enough to like in the budget to not vote it down. I suppose only Michael Ignatieff could have engineered this compromise. I mean, otherwise there would be no justification in short circuiting the leadership process. Isn't it remarkable how things turn out so well for Mr. Ignatieff. It's like he planned it all along. Tous Ensemble and all that jazz.

Cost Savings - Tory Edition

Anyone else find it strange that things that don't fit the government's given ideology are the first to go in this time of belt tightening. First we had the deficit inducing millions that they wanted to take away from their political opponents. Also, on that chopping block, the whole messy system associated with allowing women to grieve when they are underpaid. Now, we get a scientist cut from an environmental meeting. This is starting to constitute a pattern. I know, why don't we cut the Supreme Court? Harper's hated those evil liberal judges for years. I think Harper is taking the whole crisis/opportunity cliche a little far.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ways For Harper to Avoid Looking Like A Partisan Hypocrite

This may be difficult. After all, Harper does have a long track record of looking like a partisan hypocrite. However, I have two suggestions for him on senate appointments:
  1. Ask the Premiers. I realize that the majority of the premiers don't really care for Stephen Harper. However, it would avoid having the appearance of cronyism and would allow a premier that wanted to hold a Senate election, say Saskatchewan's Brad Wall, to do just that. Harper would retain the right to veto any reccomendation as he retains the constitutional power to appoint all senators. This is basically what Harper said he would do in 2006 and there's no reason to deviate from his plans. However, if he doesn't want to give Danny Williams and Dalton McGuinty a say in the Senate, he does have another more sinister venue.
  2. Appoint Liberals and/or NDPers. Stephen Harper sits twelve seats short of a majority government. He has eighteen senate appointments. This could be a great time to reduce the size of his opposition. This has the insidious beauty of allowing Harper to look non-partisan while seizing the majority he's always wanted. For instance, do you think the Liberals could hold Wascana without Ralph Goodale? Yukon without Larry Bagnell? The answer is definitely maybe. Harper would get a mini-election in battleground ridings to try to get to 155. Or conversely he could just drag the puck on the by-elections for the maximum amount of time, at which point he may be willing to go a general election. So the senate would be stacked against him, it wouldn't matter if he could just keep sending bills back to the senate ad nauseam. Appointing MP's to the senate would have the added benefit of having them be "elected". If he were to name Bagnell to the Yukon vacancy, Bagnell would be representing the same jurisdiction he represents today. I realize this would be a major gamble with the definite risk of people seeing through the bipartisan cover of this tactic. I personally hope he doesn't do it because it would be the best shot he'd have getting a majority and that prospect scares me to no end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Senate

Well, it must be the holidays or some other political silly season, we're talking about the Canadian Senate. There are three schools of thought on the senate as far as I can tell. The first, like Mr. Harper was until about a week ago, believe the senate needs desperate reform. The second, like Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, believe it is a waste of time and should be abolished. The third and by far the largest group does its very best to not think about the Senate gets upset when it is brought up in any context and then promptly thinks of England and moves on. Is it unbelievably cynical for a man who claimed he wouldn't appoint senators to appoint 18 of them (that makes 19 appointed and one "elected" appointment by Harper by my count), absolutely? Is it cronyism? Kind of, but every Prime Minister in history has done it given the chance. Does the Liberal Party have a position on the senate? Not that I've heard expressed by any federal politician. I assume Czar Michael the Grit (I swear, I'm trying to get over it... Tous Ensemble and all that jazz) has a position on the Senate, I've just never heard it. I don't expect that or any other constitutional issue (yes Mr. Prime Minister, it is a constitutional issue) will be a subject of discussion in the next election. It's still the economy stupid. Whether there are 87 or 105 senators, the economy is still in recession. That's what Canadians care about.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moving On

I am not someone who is easily dissuaded of his convictions. I do not bend readily with the political wind. Yesterday's events do not change one iota my opinion of Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Rae. It is true that the man I thought was best suited to lead my party backed Mr. Ignatieff and encouraged his supporters to do the same. It is also true that the man I supported two years ago today backed Mr. Rae and made a similar case for his candidate. While I respect Dominic LeBlanc and Gerard Kennedy immensely and generally trust their judgment, I do not feel that their endorsements today make either of our two remaining leadership candidates more palatable. Politics, at this level, is not a personal business for me. Who supports a given candidate has never been my determining factor. I do not hold a personal grudge against either man. Nor do I believe that either of them do not earnestly think that what they are trying to do what is in the best interest of this party and our beloved country. I simply cannot, in good faith, support either man to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. I have explained the roots of my antipathy in previous posts. I suggest you look through the archives if you want my thoughts at the beginning of this race. My feelings towards the two men have not changed.

Mr. Rae remains a man in my estimation who is trying to atone for past sins. The Prime Ministership should not be a vessel of personal redemption. I am sorry that Bob Rae was not more successful as Premier of Ontario. I am sorry that he chose to abandon the Liberal Party for the NDP all those years ago. However, no amount of action on his part today will obliterate those mistakes in his own mind, or more consequentially, in the minds of the voters. While I respect Mr. Rae's decision to keep this as a competitive and contested leadership, I simply cannot see a path to victory that would not do further damage to the Liberal Party. At this point, Mr. Rae has to hope for Ignatieff to make an error so agregious as to offend his supporters or that he lose an election as interim leader so badly that the Prime Minister receives a majority mandate. Both of these paths would further cripple the Liberal Party of Canada and I cannot support a candidate whose hopes rest on outcomes so disastrous to my party.

Mr. Ignatieff continues to show himself parodoxically politically deft and deaf. It is clear, in spite of the protestations of his supporters, that the abbreviation of this leadership race is Mr. Ignatieff or his lieutenants doing. There was and is no valid reason why the party couldn't have chosen a neutral interim leader, provided support for Mr. Harper on confidence matters from now until early May and at that point make a decision as to whether or not to inflict upon Canadians the indignity of a fourth election in five years. While Mr. Harper was reckless and arrogant in his so-called fiscal update, it was equally reckless and arrogant for M. Dion to presume that Mr. Harper's mistakes justified the overturning of an election result barely fully settled in some ridings. Mr. Ignatieff' has been somewhere between obtuse and invisible during this affair. First he pledged his support for the coalition while quietly questioning its underlying strategy. Now, he has taken a "wait and see" approach, which while not unjustified, does seem a stark contrast to the rhetoric Mr. Ignatieff endorsed mere days ago. Mr. Ignatieff has used this engineered crisis, irrespective of its engineer, to justify his ascension to leadership without the due process of a leadership race. I would have given Mr. Ignatieff good odds of winning that race had it been run to its proper conclusion. Now, he is a lock to win a further tarnished crown. In the midst of World War II, Democrats and Republicans in the United Staate held normal political conventions in order to choose their leadership for the elections. Democrats after much acrimony selected Harry Truman to be their Vice Presidential nominee 1944. Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey for President the same year. The crisis that the country faced did not curtail the democratic process. Our commitment to democracy is not tested when times are good and it is easy to allow for the slow gears of our system to turn; it is tested in times of crisis, times like these for the Liberal Party of Canada. We are dangerously close to failing that test. Mr. Ignatieff, by his inaction in his role as the frontrunner in this race if nothing else, bears an especial blame for that failure.

If, as is expected, the national caucus of the Liberal Party of Canada reccomends Michael Ignatieff for the position of interim leader on Wednesday, it will send a clear message to the Liberal party rank and file. A message louder and clearer than any words uttered Mr. Ignatieff or his surrogates. The message will be "This is our party, not yours." The members of the Liberal Party of Canada are not another consultative body available to its leaders. The membership is the Liberal Party. Mr. Ignatieff may believe that like a long-time occupying army gaining the trust of the native people, his leadership may eventually be welcomed by those that oppose him now. He is wrong. I do not intend to prove him wrong myself, but nothing in the history of the Liberal Party leads me to believe that people will forget this insult.

I will continue to support the Liberal Party of Canada. I joined the party in the run-up to the 2004 election not because I particularly liked the leader but because I believed that the party as a whole was best suited to govern this country in good times or bad. I worked tirelessly in the last election for the party under M. Dion not because I agreed with the central plank of his platform or because I believed him to be anything more than a competent manager but because I still believed in the essential pragmatism and common sense of the party. So moving forward, I can only hope that Mr. Ignatieff (or on the off-chance Mr. Rae) proves me wrong. Regardless, I will work for the election of a Liberal government because I believe in the promise of this party and its membership. I still believe the people of Toronto-Danforth deserve better than an absentee MP who has more respect for conspiracy theorists than employers. I still believe that Canada deserves better than a Prime Minister who does not believe in the federal government both because it is a government and because it is federal. In sum, I may not be inspired by my leader but I still have faith in the membership of the Liberal Party of Canada and I still support the party that they constitute. Therefore, I can do nothing else but wish Mr. Ignatieff luck and work dilligently for his success.

My membership in this party expires December 31st and, to be honest, there were times in the last 48 hours where I considered letting it lapse. For about 15 of those hours the only words I could say on the matter were "coup" and "P.U.M.A." I have calmed down enough to realize that no matter the errors, this is still my party. I watched with great sadness and profound gratitude the repatriation ceremony for Cpl. Mark McLaren, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros and Warrant Officer Robert Wilson. The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are heroes. That cannot be overstated. Watching the ceremony with its stark contrast of military discipline and formality and raw unfetered human emotion is profoundly moving no matter what your political philosophy. It is moments like these that remind me that for all the pettiness, for all the inanity, politics is more than a game. It is a matter, in many cases, of life and death. It is too important to simply back away from when something you don't like takes place. Thus, I will continue to contribute to our political process because I believe it is the duty of each and everyone of us as citizens of this great country. I wrote this post as much for myself as for anyone else and if it seems melodramatic or condescending, I apologize. I needed to vent and figured this was as good a forum as any.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Could Someone Please Read the LPC Constitution?

There is talk about moving up the date of the leadership vote and scrapping the convention format in favour of some sort of full membership vote. I won't get into the argument of whether or not this is a good idea. It doesn't matter. It's unconstitutional. Let's start with the idea of changing the process. According to section 56 (1) of the LPC constitution:

"The Leader is elected at a National Leadership Convention with the delegates to that convention being elected in proportion to the popular direct vote received by each leadership contestant..."

If you wanted to change that, you would have AMEND the constitution. To do that according to section 76 (1) of the LPC Constitution:

"The Constitution may be amended... by a Special Resolution of the members of the party at a convention."

There is some talk of the riding association presidents being able to change this. I don't see how. While it is true that the the Council of Presidents has the power to interpret the constitution, that power is limited as prescribed in Section 77 (2) (a) to interpret the constitution in such a way that:

"is consistent with this Constitution over an interpretation that conflicts with this Constitution"

Clearly, removing the whole delegated part of the Leadership process would be an interpretation which conflicts with the Constitution. We are a party of rules. Delegates voted in Montreal as to whether or not to change the rules regarding leadership. That amendment failed, albeit narrowly. There is no body outside of a convention with the power in the Liberal Party to change the leadership rules. Not the caucus, not the executive council, not the council of presidents.

In terms of acceleration, there is little that can be done. The Delegate Selection Meetings have to be held no less than 34 days before the convention and proper notice must be given to all members of the DSM's prior to their taking place, pushing the date a few weeks further out. This means that there is little to no way to move the convention up to before a budget vote. This does not even take into account the membership cut-off date which is prescribed as 41 days before the DSM. Realistically, because of membership renewals and single year members that join for leadership races that date has to be in the same year as the convention i.e. 2009. Theoretically, January 1 but more likely something like the fifteenth of January would be the earliest the membership cut-off could be. With a membership cut-off date of January 15th instead of early February, the race could be moved up to the beginning of April. However, the logistical challenge of booking a venue a month earlier would negate any political gains from the expedience. If we want to change the constitution in the future so that a leadership race could be rushed in a crisis someone should propose a constitutional amendment to be voted on in Vancouver.

He's Got To Screw Up Soon...

But not on this one. President-Elect Obama is reportedly (and that tends to mean intentionally leaked) tapping Fmr. Gen. Eric Shinseki to head up the VA. You may remember Shinseki telling Congress in the run-up to the Iraq war that a successful occupation would require more troops, more time and more money than the Bush administration was letting on. Shinseki retired from the army soon after. Obama's plans for the VA (like most of his plans) are ambitious. He wants to give Iraq and Afghan War vets the same treatment as World War II vets. He campaigned on fixing military hospitals and providing better assistance to soldiers and their families upon leaving the forces. Shinseki is unlikely to downplay the problems that face the VA; that is exactly what Obama will need if he is going to extract funding from a bankrupt (almost literally) Congress. The base will love seeing the guy who stood up to Bush in office. The right won't be able to a former army chief of staff in the job. While there are questions surrounding his picks at Treasury (Bailout), Justice (Clinton pardons) and State (Billary redux?), Obama's cabinet is shaping up to be a tour de force. There are no weak links in this chain.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weekend Reading

I've been hearing from a lot of Liberals that they don't know enough about Dominic LeBlanc. Fair enough. Hopefully some of those questions will be answered by his upcoming campaign and website launches. Until then, Maclean's has done a nice little bio piece on him. It may not be long on policy proposals, but it does give you some insight into the substance of the man.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Harper, Jean Set Canada Back 175 Years

The Prime Minister and the Governor General may have done irreparable damage to Canadian democracy. This may seem like hyperbole but it is the reality. By proroguing parliament the PM and the GG have said that Canada no longer believes in responsible government. Responsible government means that the executive is accountable to the legislature. By suspending parliament, the Prime Minister has circumvented the right of parliament to express its non-confidence in the government.

Too often we forget that this principle of responsible government is not something we have always had in this country. 171 years ago, people took up arms in what was then called Upper and Lower Canada now known as Ontario and Quebec to fight for responsible government. While the rebellions were put down (almost comically so in Ontario), the response of the British government was to grant their wish for responsible government. We have held that principle to be sacrosanct in this country since that bloody winter. It guided Baldwin and Lafontaine, it guided Macdonald and Cartier, in short, it built this country. Today, the Prime Minister and the Governor General have said that the principle of responsible government is no longer important in this country. For a man who once called himself a Reformer, he has insulted the legacy of William Lyon Mackenzie and the original Reform Party. For shame.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Saxby Chambliss and Tea Leaves

Senator Saxby Chambliss won easily in the run-off election yesterday in Georgia. Nate Silver, among others, views this as an ominous warning about the 2010 mid-term elections. I don't see it that way. Let's look at what happened yesterday and what's going to happen two years from now. First yesterday's run-off. Start by taking a look at this page from CNN. If you flip back and forth from Nov. 4 result to the run-off election, you'll notice that the county map didn't change all that much. What that indicates is that Martin's collapse comes primarily from lack of turnout a predictable result. Let's look at this race objectively. Chambliss had a whole host of advantages:
  1. He is the incumbent. There are few countries where the incumbency means more than it does in the United States. Martin was always climbing uphill on this one.
  2. Georgia is a red state. While I wouldn't be surprised if Obama puts Georgia in his early crosshairs in 2012, the state still voted for McCain in 2008. Martin got almost the same number of votes as Obama did on Nov. 4. (both were around 46%). Chambliss had McCain's support split off by a third party candidate putting him...
  3. Chambliss was just a few votes shy of 50% the first time around. This was not a reversal of election day or even a dramatic change in fortunes. Chambliss would have won the race on election day in many states. This isn't like Minnesota where the difference may end up being just a couple hundred votes.
  4. The Republican base was energized, the Democrats were not. The Republican base was spurred on by the threat of fillibuster-proof senate. The Democrats rely in Georgia, as they do in many southern states, on the turnout of the African-American community to boost their fortunes. With Barack Obama on the ballot Nov. 4th the Democrats had an easy sell among African-Americans. All across the US African-Americans voted in record numbers this time around. They weren't going to do that for Jim Martin, particularly when Obama wasn't campaigning on Martin's behalf.
So, what can we take out of this for 2010? That in states where a Republican incumbent is running for re-election in a red state where Barack Obama does not show up to support the Democrat, the Republicans may have an easy time of it. I don't think those are the races on the top of the target list for either party. I would expect Obama to be on the stump in 2010. That should energize the base for the Democrats. Two of the most competitive races will be Republican held seats in now blue Florida and New Hampshire. However, if the Republicans are going to make noise in 2010 they are going to have to knock off Democratic incumbents. That is not going to be an easy task. Chambliss victory provides no guidelines for knocking off an incumbent Democratic senator, something I believe the GOP hasn't done since 2004. Only if the GOP goal is to stem their losses is the Chambliss victory at all noteworthy.

Side Note: Do not credit Sarah Palin with this one either. I heard the normally astute David Gergen making this comment yesterday. Yes, she drew some crowds and media attention for Chambliss. However, crowds, like lawn signs, don't vote. Remember Obama's massive crowd under the arch in St. Louis? He lost the state of Missouri on election night.

A Plague O'Both Your Houses

Okay, so I've switched from Yeats to Shakespeare, this stuff is better than fiction. We've got honest to goodness polling data on this thing at last. With the normal caveats about a poll taken outside of a writ, here's it is. I think my title is the best way to describe the voters on this. Either that or voters don't care and this is just a repeat of the election results. I think the first option is more likely. What does this mean going forward? Well, good news and bad news for both sides.

For the coalition, the good news is that people aren't preparing torches. They aren't about to carry Stephen Harper back into 24 Sussex on their shoulders either. The bad news is that there is no real anger demonstrable in this poll about the whole lack of an economic plan. This may be that while there is a slow down in the country we are not in the crisis that most of the world is facing yet. "Yet" is the operative word, Tories. For the Tories the good news is that people aren't calling for Harper's heads. On the other hand they aren't all that upset about the "evil separatist supported coalition".

Where do we go from here? Well, if Harper dares to prorogue parliament (still a major risk for him and the country in my view), he will take this as a signal to continue the media assault begun today. For the opposition, if they can take down Harper now, avoid an election, and form government, the people may not punish them for it eighteen months hence. I think this should take some of the inside Queensway panic out of this crisis. Then again, it probably won't. The parties have a vested interest in making this as big as possible now. The Tories need this to be big in order to justify the highly undemocratic move of proroguing parliament in order to avoid a confidence vote. The Coalition needing this to be big in order to justify unseating a government six weeks after an election. As is usually the case in politics, there are no angels here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Coalition Coalesced

We are definitely witnessing history here. A couple quick comments on this afternoon's coalition signing etc.

First and foremost, I love that it has a degree of permanence to it. I wrote earlier that I feared the public's wrath on this one. I think if we have a government that lasts anywhere from 18-30 months, the majority of which under a Prime Minister not named Stephane Dion, the coalition partners may get away with it electorally. The thinking seems to be that if the government can outlast the economic downturn (or at least the worst of it), it can then frame itself as having saved the Canadian economy from the incompetent Tories. That is a viable strategy if the economy turns around that quickly. I wouldn't better the farm on the economy though.

If Stephen Harper prorogues parliament he's finished. He may be finished if he doesn't but he would be signing his own death certificate if he prorogues. Let's be clear, Harper's won because he has been seen as a tough and prudent manager. Running away from the opposition would make him look weak and ineffectual. He would need a miracle to win an election if he pulled that stunt.


There are two new leadership questions to consider in the run-up to the vote on December 8th. The first is who will lead the new coalition if and when it takes office? The second is whether or not Stephen Harper can retain control of the Conservative Party. Each in turn.

Traditionally in coalition governments, the leader of the party with the most seats becomes the leader of the coalition and therefore the government. This is true in European states when they choose governments by coalition and one would assume that this would be true here. So the question of leadership in the coalition is really a question of leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Stephane Dion is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. According to the
LPC constitution there are five ways a leader ceases to be a leader:
  1. The leader resigns
  2. The leader fails a leadership review
  3. The leader dies
  4. The leader is no longer recognized by the GG as leader to due to incapacity (not clear on the circumstances; maybe leader's in a coma or something)
  5. Leader is found by the national executive to not meet the minimum requirements for leadership (e.g. not a member of the party or qualified to hold office).
That's it. The only way anyone other than Stephane Dion becomes leader of the Liberal Party before the leadership convention is if Dion resigns. I doubt that would happen. The caucus does not have the power to unelect M. Dion. Thus, I think the speculation surrounding this question is fairly idle. If M. Dion were to resign, an interim leader would be chosen but that would almost certainly not be Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae or Mr. LeBlanc. Whoever takes over is likely to be a historical footnote anyway with the Prime Minister people remember being the guy who takes over after the leadership convention.

On to the second question: does Harper survive at the CPC? I really don't know. I obviously don't have insider knowledge of the CPC. I don't know whether the membership blames Harper for this mess or thinks that "those damn Liberals screwed them again." I can't believe there won't be questions. Apparently there are already draft movements afoot for various cabinet members. Some of these movements seem legitimate feeler campaigns (Prentice) some of them are a little far-fetched (Baird). I have a hard time seeing Stephen Harper in opposition for two and a half years. I don't think he can be righteously indignant for that long. The plan seems to be to make this government last so long that a) the economy turns around and b) people forget they voted for the Tories in 2008. That would limit Harper's ability to copy the King model and win a majority after being turfed by a minority parliament.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Centre Cannot Hold

I apologize for the repeated Yeats quotes but it seems appropriate. I dealt with the substantive policy difference of this crisis in the last post. Now, to the politics. It has been over eighty years since a sitting prime minister was replaced by a prime minister of the opposite party without an election taking place. That record is not a trifling thing. It represents for the most part stable governments which have had the confidence of the Canadian people and parliament. We face now a constitutional crisis that few Canadians are old enough to recall any comparable circumstance. Let's start with the basics.

If on December 8th or sometime thereafter, the government is brought down either on a money bill or a vote of no-confidence introduced by the opposition, the government will fall and Prime Minister Harper will take a trip to Rideau Hall. There, in all likelihood, he will tell Governor General Jean that parliament is no longer workable (for real and for true this time) and ask her to kindly dissolve parliament, drop the writ of election for a date in January (probably similar to the timing of the 06 election). The Governor General would then have a decision to make. She could simply call an election or she could ask the rag-tag coalition that appears to have formed in the last few days to try to govern the country under the leadership, presumably, of Stephane Dion. Prime Minister Dion would then have the unenviable task of picking a cabinet (Gilles Duceppe for intergovernmental affairs!). M. Dion would then introduce a budget in the spring (with or without The Green Shift) and subsequently resign upon the election of his successor in early May in Vancouver (when he will cease to be the leader of the largest coalition in the House). With the Prime Minister resigned, a new Prime Minister (Dom, Iggy or Rae) would be sworn in with their own cabinet some time in May or June with the likely responsibility of passing the budget introduced by the Dion government. Thus, we would, in all likelihood, have three Prime Ministers after only one election for the first time since John Thompson was sworn in to succeed John Abbot in 1892. Sound like fun yet?

I do not, for the life of me, understand the thinking behind this plan. The optics of Stephane Dion leading a government supported by separatists would do irreparable damage to an already tarnished legacy. I argued in my last post why I thought Harper's economic approach was misguided. That does not mean I want to throw the country into a political crisis to stop his inaction. The real poison pill in all this, the removal of the elections subsidy, has been pulled back. The rest is negligent but the timing is, by Mr. Harper's design, unquestionably terrible for the opposition. Canadians understand that they elected a Conservative government on October 14th. They would be more than a little disturbed to see that government removed from office two months later. There is not a discernable sense that Canadians are truly angry with Harper's inaction. I think they would have like to have seen more, but I think they still respect the election that we just had.

Moreover, we have seen in the past weeks how little it takes for these already fragile markets to panic. We saw the panic in the United States when Barack Obama did not have his economic team announced weeks before he assumes office. What message do we send to the world if in the middle of an economic crisis we change governments without an election.

Beyond the markets, should we as Liberals be going down this road? We are (or were) the party of federalism and moderate government. We now look to work with separatists to overthrow the elected government. Mr. Harper's seeming inability to seek actual compromise is distressing and irresponsible but I do not believe the Canadian people will side with us in this fight. Even if you believe that the government must be thrown out, is it worht working with these people? What do Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton want for Canada? Do we want to be working with a man who doesn't believe our country, as it currently is constituted, should exist? Do we want to put a man who views business as an enemy into cabinet? Is it so crucial that a stimulus package be passed today instead of six months from now that we should so fundamentally compromise our values? My answer is no. I don't know how to explain such a decision to myself, let alone to another voter whenever the next election may come. Politically, I cannot see this doing anything but giving Stephen Harper the majority he's always wanted so that he can, unincumbered by a minority government, trash Prime Minister Chretien's legacy of election subsidization. If we thought we faced the worst of the people's wrath last time, just wait. Remember, it is possible that the GG could send us back to the polls immediately, without a new leader. It may be that the die is already irrecovably cast. I hope not. We need to back away from this cliff that we are standing on.

Things Fall Apart

Yes, it appears mere anarchy has been loosed upon Ottawa while I was traveling state-side this week for US Turkey Day. It may take a couple of posts to sort through this mess. Let's start with the non-stimulus package. The Canadian economy is naturally and through sound practice connected with the rest of the world. We do not aspire to be a hermit kingdom. Thus, while this economic crisis cannot be laid at the feet of Canadians or their government, the crisis has certainly breached our border. A response of some sort is appropriate. The nature of that response is a question for economists and policy experts to debate. However, some sort of response is expected. To simply sit and think that nothing has changed, that the policies that were introduced in anticipation of burgeoning oil revenues holding up a struggling manufacturing sector will continue to apply in a climate where oil prices have plummeted is simply unwise and illogical. The question is what to do. This is not an easy question. However, it does have answers.

It is true that we cannot respond the way our friends in the United States and the UK have responded. There is no need to bailout failing banks to restore solvency or liquidity to the markets. Our banks through the benefit of better regulation, and perhaps more importantly, better management, avoided the depths of the crisis which has imploded so terribly in other parts of the world. Our housing markets, while hurting, are not consumed by foreclosures. If Canadians start losing their homes it will be because they have lost their job not because their mortgage rate doubled overnight. Thus, the massive bailouts that have made all the news worldwide are not a Canadian solution. Nor, for the most part is a manufacturers bailout. Canada's manufacturing sector is dominated by the automotive sector. While there are steps we can take to ensure that jobs remain in Canada, it is neither possible, nor within the jurisdiction of the Canadian government to bailout the auto makers. They are simply not Canadian companies and are not really the responsibility of our government. If Frank Stronach or one of the other ancillary manufacturers were to ask for money, I think we should listen, but I don't that's really on the table. The issues above are the part of the landscape that justify the inaction we've seen from the Tories. However, it is nowhere near the whole picture.

The Canadian government, through years of fiscal restraint in discipline, finds itself well positioned in terms of debt to GDP ratio. Are we the best? No. Are we completely secure? Definitely not, but we are in a position of relative strength. The same cannot be said of Canadian infrastructure. The Obama administration planned infrastructure investments are as needed in Canada as they are down south. The Harper government could have announced new spending in roads, transit and electrical grids. This spending would not only improve crumbling infrastructure and provide jobs but have the ancillary benefit of reducing long term greenhouse gas emissions. While I am reluctant to advocate government deficits, I believe infrastructure is a worthy cause to do so. Conservatives often say that we should manage government like we manage our households and I don't think it is a terrible analogy. However, when your house needs a rennovation or repairs, you spend the money in order to reap the future rewards. You take out a loan (if you can get one) either through a line of credit or directly on your mortgage. It is sound management of a household and it is sound management of government. Infrastructure investments are also one time costs. In other words, you don't have to worry about escalating deficits year over year because once the subway track is laid, it requires little further investment. If you are going into deficit to pay for government services such as health care, you have a problem. An investment in infrastructure would not create that kind of systemic problem.

Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty et al. are wrong to do nothing while the economy collapses. They have an opportunity to make their mark upon this country in a profoundly positive way, and they are missing the boat. Shame.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Experience You Can Change With

No, this isn't the new slogan of the Dominic LeBlanc campaign. I'm talking about Obama's cabinet. Here's what we know/think we know:

VP: Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
State: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Attorney General: Eric Holder (former Justice Dept official)
Treasury: Tim Geithner (Chair of the New York Federal Reserve)
Homeland Security: Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
Defense: Secy. Robert Gates (current Secretary of Defense)?
Commerce: Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)?
Health and Human Services: Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD)
National Security Advisor: Gen. Jim Jones?

What's Left?

Housing and Urban Development
Veterans' Affairs

I think the talk about Obama tapping too many Washington insiders is ridiculous. I think Obama learned from the opening days of the Clinton administration and is not going to put untested people in charge in what looks to be a crucial first hundred days.

A couple of names to throw around as possibilities in the other portfolios. First, I think the talk of getting Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in to cabinet is very encouraging. It not only shows bipartisanship, it keeps one of the smartest guys in Washington in town. Obama has ambitious plans for the VA and the decorated Vietnam vet would be a great fit. It would also position him nicely to take over defense once Gates deals with the withdrawal from Iraq. Putting Hagel into the VA for now would also give time for Tammy Duckworth (D) to get more experience at the Illinois VA. Duckworth is the woman Obama laid a wreath with on Veterans' Day (Remembrance Day this side of the border) and is an Iraq vet who lost both her legs in combat. She narrowly lost a congressional race in 2006 and has been praised as innovative for her work at the Illinois VA. I'd love to see her brought to Washington. Colin Powell (R) has been mentioned in terms of Education. I wouldn't mind that one. Energy is going to be a key portfolio. Some talk of Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) but I think three Western governors (Richardson and Napolitano already likely candidates) in Cabinet might be a little much. Although, the governor's chair is less important in Montana with only one Congressional District and, thus, no opportunity for gerrymandering in the upcoming redistricting. Schweitzer, who may be looking at the top job in 2016 (he'll be only 61), would probably want to keep some distance from Obama in case things don't go as well as hoped. Hillary Clinton, who would be 69 in 2016, has apparently decided that her chances of breaking through that glass ceiling are slim to nil. If she still was gunning to be President, she would not be accepting the job in Foggy Bottom.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conservatives Telegraph Strategy

I think it is time to start paying attention to what Harper and Flaherty are saying vis-a-vis the economy. If you're like me, you get the visceral need to change the channel anytime they appear on television, but I think we are going to have to torture ourselves and listen for a minute. There is one argument that they are using repeatedly these days as they prepare to run a deficit worth paying attention to. The argument, such as it is, goes like this: in this time of crisis, we cannot afford to be bound by economic theories and academic abstractions; we need to save the economy. While I don't necessarily disagree with running a small deficit at this point in history, I think the language Harper and Flaherty are using is important.

There are basically two reasons for talking about the no deficit principle as an academic abstraction. The first is the Conservative Party Base and the second is Michael Ignatieff. First the base. The last time (at least the last time I remember) the Tories went to a major policy conference, Harper bullied and cajoled his party into moderating some of their more extreme views in order to show a more moderate and electable party. This time, the policies (as Danielle Takacs so excellently reported) were pure red meat. The core party principles. One of those party principles used to be balanced budgets. At least it was when Mike Harris, Jim Flaherty, Ernie Eves et al. were promoting their Balanced Budget Act in Ontario (for you non-Ontarians think fixed election date law with fewer teeth). A great way to get a right winger in this country or our American neighbours off a principle is to call it academic. Much of the right wing has developed an antipathy to the academe so strong as to put them off any idea even remotely academic. Thus, they are getting away from our commitment to fiscal responsibility because its academic.

The second part of the calcualtion is more important for Liberals. The Tories seem to agree with the media that the Liberal Leadership Race is Michael Ignatieff's to lose and as such are beginning to lay the groundwork for their attack strategy. How do you attack Iggy? You call him an academic who is ill prepared to deal with the realities of an economic crisis. Is it fair? Of course not. When's the last time the Tories were fair. However, they seem to be going that route. Putting Flaherty and Clement in charge of the economy is further illustrating the contrast they want to drive home. Flaherty and Clement have loads more experience as cabinent ministers, at both the federal and provincial level, than almost anyone in the Conservative Party or even at Parliament at this point. Harper is getting ready to make the steady hand argument. In order to do this he is creating a straw man who looks a lot like Michael Ignatieff. New rule: everytime Flaherty or Harper say they aren't doing something because now is no time for theories, everyone in the Iggy campaign takes a drink. It might take some of the sting out of the attack ads that will come out if Iggy is elected leader.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Fact Checker is a Beautiful Thing

I know this is from yesterday's star, but I just noticed it. Bob Hepburn is arguing in favour of one-member-one-vote. He makes is argument in part by arguing that:

"Indeed, the Liberals are the last major political party in Canada and the United States to still pick its leader this way."

Um... Bob... I know making sweeping statements can be fun but you need a serious American civics lesson. Yes, millions of Americans voted in the Democratic primary. This doesn't mean that they actually chose the Democratic nominee. That was done in Denver by the DELEGATES to the Democratic National CONVENTION. Remember the whole Super Delegate nonsense? Remember the roll call VOTE? In fact, the Liberals choose their nominee in almost an identical fashion to the Democrats. The only difference is that our primary happens over one weekend instead of over five months. It's really depressing that newspaper editors don't even bother to check the so-called facts that appear in their newspapers anymore.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alma Mater Blues

Queen's University made a splash this week by canceling the annual homecoming football game. The football game has, in recent years, been a cause for celebration among Ontario university students culminating in the now infamous Aberdeen Street party. The party is unsanctioned and illegal. The city of Kingston, after a car was flipped and burnt in 2005, panicked and called in the cavalry (in the form of police from all over the province). Having failed to actually stop the celebration in the subsequent years, the pressure has been on the administration at Queen's to do something. So they did.

While I sympathize with the administration's position as being somewhere between a rock and a hard place. As someone who was on Aberdeen Street at various points in his university career, I feel I should share my thoughts. I think perspective is necessary. I think a question that I don't think has ever been addressed is why Aberdeen became what it became. Here's what I think happened.
  1. Kingston is not exactly replete with bars. When Alumni and others come in for a party, what bars there are fill up pretty quickly. This leaves the 16,000 or so university students who have a work hard/play hard attitude with no legal means of showing their school spirit (read desire to get drunk as humanly possible). This led to a growth in (illegal) keggers in students' homes.
  2. In 2004, the year before the car, a major kegger complete with private security was organized by one of the households on Aberdeen Street. In previous years, Aberdeen was the site of much homecoming partying due to the fact that all but one of the homes on the short street was/is occupied by students. However, most of the partying toook places in the backyards and homes of the residents, disturbing only the one family who insisted on living there (I believe the student council eventually bought the house after being turned down in previous years). Most of the homes are also large houses housing large numbers of students and provide perfect locations for house parties.
  3. When the party's invitation list overwhelmed organizers (and the private security guy), the cops were called in to break up the sizable kegger. The street subsequently filled with slightly displeased students. A couple of these students inexcusably threw beer bottles at the departing security guy.
  4. This incident led to a panic on the part of the Kingston Police for the following year's celebration (the car year). The KPD attempted to block off Aberdeen Street for the night placing officers at the four legal entrances to the street. This failed miserably as people quickly found the unfenced backyards which provide easy access to Aberdeen and quickly began partying behind the police barricade.
  5. The attempts to block access to Aberdeen left the crowd in an anti-establishment mood and the now infamous flipping and burning of the car resulted. Side note: how the police missed the stolen, plateless vehicle parked conspicuously on an otherwise car free street as they drove up and down Aberdeen all day is still a mystery.
  6. When news of the incident spread, along with pictures of thousands of students drinking in the street, the party became a destination for students accross the province. This meant that Aberdeen remained a crowded, if mostly peaceful, party in the subsequent years.
This picture is perhaps not consistent with the image of riotous students at war with an overburdened police force portrayed in the media but it is a lot closer to the truth. The problem with canceling the fall booze fest is, in a word, Facebook. A group proposing a non-administration date for homecoming already has 1300 members within a day of the administration's decision. Yes, social networking can be used for more nefarious means than political organization.

What has always frustrated me is the lack of any desire from the University or the city to organize what is needed: an open air beer festival, preferably in one of Kingston's parks or on its main drag, Princess Street. A sanctioned and licensed event where beer is sold and is in a well lit venue with bouncers from the bars or police officers checking identification to discourage underage drinking would be a huge source of revenue for whoever organized it. I don't think students come to homecoming because it's rebellious, I think they go because it is a damn good party. Legalizing it would make it more accessible to the true cause of the celebration: the alumni coming home. While the University has tried to organize alternate events (Billy Talent anyone?) they either lacked the requisite space or the ability to drink, which like it or not, is what people want to do on homecoming weekend. Instead of making money on a fabulous Princess Street Party, everyone involved will have to bite their nails and hope that the new date doesn't catch on. It is really too bad.

Bob the Chameleon

Bob Rae's shift on The Green Shift is almost comedic. You see campaign Bob said this when asked about The Green Shift when it was being attacked by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall:

"we have to be realistic and put a price on pollution"

Contrast this with leadership candidate Bob now saying:

"Rae said the Green Shift was pursued without applying common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people. "Politics is not about philosophy or theory," he said in an interview with Canwest News Service."

Apparently being "realistic", doesn't involve "common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people". Now, I understand the good soldier argument. Here's the problem, Rae could have taken the route taken by his opponents saying that the policy was rejected by the voters and moved the party too far away from its centrist roots. Valid criticisms that one can make given the election results without sounding like a hypocrite. Instead Mr. Rae is saying "don't believe anything I said on the campaign trail, I was just doing the bidding of M. Dion." Why should we believe you now Bob?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Discrimination is Discrimination

I have to agree with my friend Will Norman on this one. I thought we were past the point where we passed laws against segments of the population based on negative stereotypes. I know proponents will argue that young adults are more likely to be involved in accidents. I don't care. Would it be okay if the law discriminated based on race? On gender? I didn't think so. Ageism may not be as loaded or destructive as racism or sexism but it is still discrimination. I don't drive (whole downtown Toronto/ easy access to subway thing) and I am just over the age affected by this law. I still find it abhorrent. Shame, Dalton McGuinty, shame.

CG for LeBlanc

I always feel a little better about myself when Dan Arnold agrees with me on something. There's a reason the Calgary Grit is the premier Liberal blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Iggy, Rae Squabble; Grassroots Lose

Well the Leadership Race is off to an ominous start. Here's the story. The organizers of a debate in Mississauga get all parties to agree to participate. They say the media will be invited only if all three candidates agree. Rae and LeBlanc say yes, Iggy says no. Organizers shut out media. Rae goes to Mississauga but refuses to debate. Let's break this down one point at a time. Starting with the Iggy contention that there are times to talk to the public and times "for family."

I understand that certain occasions are just for the party faithful. When discussing confidential information such as financial data or campaign strategy, I couldn't agree more: keep the media out. However, by the reports that have come out of the meeting (you should know about blogging, Mr. Ignatieff) there was nothing confidential or private about the forum. Nothing that would be particularly bad for the media to hear. Also, since the event (by my understanding) was open to the public as long as they paid a fee, what was to stop the media from coming in and taking notes? Notwithstanding all that, this was not exactly a well advertised event. Large parts of the family didn't get the invitation. Most of the family can't just zip over to Mississauga for a debate. It is useful for Liberals outside the GTA (yes they do exist Mr. Ignatieff) to be able to watch their prospective leaders debate without having to be in the city where the debate is taking place. We are early on in this race and all candidates should be interested in having their views heard by all Liberals not just the small group who went out to Mississauga this afternoon. Mr. Ignatieff, once again I have to quote Joe Biden, "that's not change, that's more of the same."

Mr. Rae appears to have regressed to his NDP roots here. Standing outside protesting is acceptable behaviour among Dippers, it doesn't fly among Liberals. If you really needed the media there to talk to Liberals you should have made that clear to the organizers at the outset. While I agree with Mr. Rae's position on the media for the reasons stated above, he did agree to the rules and should abide by them. If you want to criticize Mr. Ignatieff for his decision, do so in the forum so nicley provided to you by the LPCO. Don't punish the people who came to hear what you had to say just because Mr. Ignatieff is being stubborn.

Why is it that these so-called elder statesmen insist on acting like children?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 3

Having dealt with Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Rae, I move on to my choice for Liberal leader: Dominic LeBlanc.

Dominic LeBlanc: Two years ago, I supported Gerard Kennedy for the leadership of the Liberal Party. I supported Mr. Kennedy because I believed that our party needed to change the way it did business. I believed that our party had gone stale. I still believe that today. We need to fundamentally change course. The voters sent us a message last month. We do not need a makeover, we need major surgery. We need a new generation of thinking, of leadership. I believe Dominic LeBlanc is the man for the job. I'll deal with the questions surrounding Mr. LeBlanc's candidacy and then elaborate on why I'm supporting him.

Critics of Mr. LeBlanc, will undoubtedly say that he is too young. This will undoubtedly be the line of attack taken by the Conservatives. However, Mr. LeBlanc is just eight years younger than Mr. Harper. More importantly he will be only four years younger than Mr. Harper was when he sought the highest office in the land in 2004. It is a simple and cheap argument to say that Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Harper are basically the same age and that if Mr. Harper is qualified so is Mr. LeBlanc. The age requirement for the job is 35. Mr. LeBlanc is over 35. If you think he is too young, we should change the rules and up the age limit. Furthermore, he has experience. He has more parliamentary experience than Mr. Harper did in 2004 or Mr. Ignatieff does today. He has more experience on the government side of the aisle than either of his opponents do in Ottawa. If four years in the Senate is enough for Mr. Obama, than eight years in parliament should plenty for Mr. LeBlanc.

The Liberal Party needs to do something to change its image. It is seen by too many as a function of big city elites. It is seen as a party of Central Canada. What better way to change this image than to elect as leader a rural New Brunswicker. The MP for Beauséjour has the opportunity to fundamentally change the map. He has the ability to speak to all Canadians, something we have not been able to do in a long time. We can't be afraid to talk to someone because they don't live in a condominium.

I've had the opportunity to hear Mr. LeBlanc speak about why he's running this job. Mr. LeBlanc outlines some of his vision here. I was impressed by Mr. LeBlanc's frankness when discussing the problems of the Liberal Party. Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff seem to believe that with a coat of paint and some elbow grease we can become what we once were. Mr. LeBlanc understands the depth of the challenge for this party. As I've said before, I think it will take more than a leader to fix the structural problems of the Liberal Party. However, I believe M. LeBlanc will be the person to point us in the right direction.

I also believe that he is electable. Mr. LeBlanc is the excellent of combination of experience and a blank slate. His eight years in parliament, including time as parliamentary secretary of foreign affairs, gives him the gravitas and depth of understanding necessary for the job. He also does not have open wounds for his opponents to pick at. He is a Francophone who did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto and is as comfortable in English as he is in French. He has talked about bringing the party back to the centre. Back to where we can be elected. On the economy, I believe Mr. LeBlanc has an excellent understanding of the global nature of the economic challenge and of the global potential which Canada has. I believe he understands how to make this party competitive everwhere. I also believe thta he has the judgment and the intelligence to be Prime Minister.

There are those who will say that I am wasting time on Mr. LeBlanc, that he can't win. I am not so old and cynical to believe that you shouldn't fight for what you believe in just because the odds are long. We have just witnessed the election of an African-American President. I think this is the time for long odds. It is the time to stand by the courage of your convictions. I believe in Mr. LeBlanc and I will work for his election.

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 2

Having discussed Mr. Ignatieff below I move on to Mr. Rae.

Bob Rae: The former Premier of Ontario wants to lead again. Like Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae is relying on a coalition he built last time around to be his base of support this time around. It is an impressive coalition. Mr. Rae is a man with a long and distinguished career to support his claim to this office. He has spent his life in the service of this country, and for that he should be honoured and respected. However, he is not applying for just any job, this is a job where the selection committee has 32 million members. This is Mr. Rae's problem. I do not for a second doubt Mr. Rae's ability to be Prime Minister. There has perhaps never been a candidate more qualified, in terms of resume than Mr. Rae. He has a wealth of experience both in Ottawa and at Queen's Park. He has penned important reports. He is a statesman. Win or lose, he will ever be thus. However, this is not enough.

I do not believe that Mr. Rae can be elected. Mr. Rae and his supporters will make the argument that he was a victim of circumstance when he was Premier of Ontario. The world economy did get pulled out from under his feet. However, he did not, in the judgment of the people of Ontario manage the economy well. As we face another economic crisis, one has to question the timeliness of Mr. Rae's decision. There is simply no evidence that the people of Ontario, outside of downtown Toronto share Mr. Rae's interpretation of history. I was too young to remember Mr. Rae's administration, that doesn't mean that I don't know my history. The Tories will not let the people of this country forget about Bob Rae's record. We don't have the money to turn this negative into a positive. It would be akin to the Tories electing Mike Harris and trying to salvage his term in office. It is not doable. We will spend the election attempting to defend a record that Liberals viciously criticized thirteen years ago.

Mr. Rae's supporters say that he is an incomparable campaigner. I don't see the evidence. Mr. Rae won one of the four elections that he was NDP leader. In his last campaign as leader of a political party his party lost 57 of its 74 seats and Mike Harris became premier of Ontario. The party which he led has still not recovered from his leadership. While Mr. Hampton deserves no credit for his term as leader, he has not much to work with. We are a party which has come dangerously close in the last five years to oblivion. The last time Mr. Rae led a party, he led it straight into oblivion. That is his legacy as a party leader. The people of Ontario have said in consecutive elections since his departure from the provincial scene that they do not want to return to the days of Bob Rae. If we are to form the next government we must do so by winning in Ontario. More specifically we have to win in the 905 and in the small cities of southern Ontario which have deserted the Liberal Party. Mr. Rae has no currency in these parts of the country. He is a danger to every seat we hold outside of the city of Toronto in the province. I can accept that Mr. Rae might be able to make inroads in British Columbia. However, even with Tory gerrymandering, the 35 seats available in BC will never match the clout of 106 seat Ontario. We cannot form a government without Ontario, and Bob Rae will never win again in Ontario.

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 1

I have been reticent to comment on the Liberal leadership. It is not that I don't have a horse in the race, I do and I will explain my choice in this series of blog posts. However, the rhetoric that is surrounding this race in the blogosphere is ridiculous. Valid criticisms of leadership candidates have been decried as disloyal to the party or unfair. There are valid reasons for supporting any of the three hopefuls for leadership. There are also valid criticisms to be made of all three candidates. One of the lessons that we should have learned from M. Dion's tenure, is that we must be prepared to counter the Tory spin that is going to come our way. Given our limited resources, there is only so much spin we can counter. Without any further ado, my thoughts on the leadership candidates. This post will focus on Mr. Ignatieff. My posts on Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc will follow shortly. I am dividing this so that this post isn't ridiculously long.

Michael Ignatieff: Iggy, as he is known, is at it again. The American flag appears to have mostly disappeared from around his shoulders and with the war in Iraq slightly less of a bloody disaster than it was two years ago, Mr. Ignatieff is hoping that he can waltz into Strornoway without so much as a fight. I am not buying the Iggy spin that he is somehow an inevitable leader. We have no way of knowing how much support a given candidate has until the vote of the party membership in March. If you recall last time around Mr. Ignatieff's supporters thought they were going to come out super weekend with 40% of the delegates. They emerged with less than 30% and didn't reach 40% until the final ballot. Ask Hillary Clinton how inevitability worked out for her. There is a race to run and a decision to be made. An examination of each of the candidates is required. First the positives.

Mr. Ignatieff is a man of significant intelligence. He has studied the world for his entire life and would be comfortable governing in a globalized world. He has assembled an impressive team behind him. He has done an admirable job in the thankless task of opposition. He certainly knows the value of an attacking soundbite and under his leadership, the party would likely do well in question period. However, this is not enough.

I simply do not trust Mr. Ignatieff's judgment. On the issue of foreign policy, the issue that he is supposed to be most familiar he made a blunder of epic proportions two years ago and one that simply cannot be ignored. His contradictory statements on the bombing in Qana showed a man without political tact. He managed to offend both Muslims and Jews not by taking a classically Liberal position but by attempting to take two contradictory extreme positions. There are a lot of reasons why Jews have begun to leave the Liberal party. The Conservatives certainly deserve some credit. However, when Mr. Ignatieff accused Israel of war crimes in the middle of the last leadership it confirmed for many people of my faith what they already erroneously believed: the Liberal Party is anti-Israel. It is a myth. We have been a party that is pro-peace, an honest broker. What the Qana crisis demonstrates is Mr. Ignatieff's inability to think through, politically, his words. As an academic, which is what Mr. Ignatieff has been most of his life, his comments on Qana were fairly mundane, even reconcilable. As a politician, they were disastrous.

The lack of judgment continues today. Mr. Ignatieff has called for a policy conference after the leadership convention. This is unbelievably stupid. There will be of course a policy conference in Vancouver concurrent with the leadership convention. It will be the culmination of two years of policy efforts made by local and provincial Liberal associations. If Mr. Ignatieff wants ideas for his platform, he should take from that forum and encourage his supporters to dedicate some of their seemingless boundless energy for the policy proces as it already exists. Not only would a second policy conference be redundant it would be expensive and divisive. We are not a rich party as we once were. We cannot afford to be holding superfluous conferences when we should be worried about fundraising and building our party in parts of the country where it has fallen off the map. We also are a party with wide ranging views. There are few issues where Liberals actually agree. That is why all three leadership candidates have been decidedly vague in their platforms. We are not a party with a uniting ideology and as such we often have legitimate disagreements over policy. This wouldn't change after the leadership. In fact, it would be an excellent forum for rival camps to continue the bloodletting of leadership. It is the last thing the party needs.

Finally, we must consider what the optics will be, if we elect Mr. Ignatieff. The voters say to us we don't want an academic, with no political judgment who supports a carbon tax and what do we give them? An academic, with no political judgment who supported a carbon tax. I have heard the argument that all three men are learned and therefore academics. This misses the point. Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc are politicians. They have spent the majority of their professional lives in politics, either elected or in the backroom. Mr. Ignatieff was, for most of his career, an academic. As was M. Dion. To quote Joe Biden "That's not change, that's more of the same."

Aariak Elected

Nunavut has elected its second premier in history. Eva Aariak defeated incumbent Paul Okalik at the leadership forum yesterday. She becomes fifth woman to hold the title of premier in this country and the sixth first minister. With the possibility of Pauline Marois being elected in Quebec, we could have two female first ministers at the next first minister's meeting. Of note, Aariak is the only woman elected by the voters in the recent election to the legislative assembly. However, in that male dominated legislature she was elected premier. You don't necessarily need that magical twenty percent number to see women rising to the top.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three to Tango?

It increasingly looks like a three way race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. I will, in due time, give my opinion on this race. I cannot say that I am surprised that Gerard Kennedy, John Manley and Frank McKenna decided against running. I sometimes wonder if the media actually talks to anyone when they run their stories or if they just kind of look at a list of prominent Liberals and go from there. Interesting that there is no talk this time about these being the B-list candidates like there was in '06. I didn't think it was a B-List in '06 and I think we have three serious candidates for the job this time around. Anyone of them would be a marked improvement over Stephen Harper. However, none of them will be able to do anything unless we get our party back in some sort of working order. Renewal, renewal, renewal. It doesn't matter who's running the party.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-Elect Obama

A monumental night south of the border. Barack Obama has completely changed the US electoral map. You have to admire the tactical brilliance of the Obama campaign. Let's look at the electoral college results regionally compared to 2004 assuming NC for Obama and MO for McCain:

Northeast: EVEN (Democratic Sweep both years)
Southeast: Obama + 55 EV (NC, VA, FL)
Midwest: Obama + 38 EV (OH, IN, IA)
West: Obama + 19 EV (CO, NM, NV)

He defeated John McCain by defending his home turf perfectly and picking off red state after red state. He knew he had the money advantage and the volunteer advantage and he used it to spread McCain/Palin so far that they snapped. He lost three swing states last night (MO, ND, MT) and won in a landslide. There was just no way McCain could defend twelve states with 85 million dollars. Obama knew it and last night you saw the result. This represents not only the end of John McCain but also the law that bears his name, McCain/Feingold. No presidential candidate is likely to ever take public financing unless the law is revamped to make it more competitive. More detailed analysis will follow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

McCain's Problems Begin

Obama is up 40 points in early returns in New Hampshire.  In all seriousness, I feel like a kid before Christmas or something.  It should be a fun night.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Prediction Time Part Two

Onward and upward as they say. Twenty-five states left, so let's get going.

Montana (3): Another one of those red states that shouldn't be in play, Montana demonstrates another one of Obama's electoral strengths: Native Americans. Obama has reached out to Native Americans more than most presidential candidates and they are likely to return him the favour in numbers. In both Montana and North Dakota, the Native vote is pushing Obama closer than he would normally be. However, Montana seems to be a bridge too far with Obama looking like he's going to go down by 3-5 points. Democrats are looking at Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) as a possible 2016 pick if anyone's interested.

Running Total: McCain 101, Obama 189

Nebraska (5): The other state to split its electoral votes, Nebraska like Maine has never actually done so. There are those in the Obama camp that think the congressional district around Omaha may be in play. Call it the Buffett effect. I don't buy it. While the Oracle may be backing Obama, I think his fellow Nebraskans will follow McCain

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 189

Nevada (5): Normally when people talk about Nevada swinging, they aren't talking politics. However, the Silver State is in play this time around. As with most Western states, the outcome depends how strong the Hispanic support is for Obama. With good early voting returns in Clark County (read Las Vegas), Obama appears to be in control here. If McCain wins on Tuesday it will be by pulling off upsets in states like Nevada. I just don't see him coming back here though. Not against a battle tested Obama ground game that figured out a way to lose the popular vote and still come away with 2 more delegates than Clinton in the winter.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 194

New Hampshire (4): If there's one race that's going to break John McCain's heart, it will be New Hampshire. The independent minded people of New Hampshire twice delivered for McCain in the primaries. However, in general elections, New Hampshire has taken a hard left turn since delivering the White House for Bush in 2000 (remember any state would have done for Gore). The Republican collapse in 2006 was visible from space in New Hampshire as they got swept out of congress and lost badly in the state elections. With former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) cruising to an easy victory against incumbent Sen. John Sunnunu (R), New Hampshire appears to be in a Democratic mood. Expect it to extend to the top of the ticket where Obama will finally have his New Hampshire win.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 198

New Jersey (15): Every cycle, the Republicans think they can get back to competitiveness in New Jersey. Then the polls show them ten points down and they abandon ship. This year is no different. The Garden State will vote for Obama.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 213

New Mexico (5): It is ironic that a Republican ticket with two Western candidates may lose the election because of a miserable performance in the West. However, that looks to be a distinct possibility and states like New Mexico tell the tale. New Mexico, in most years, is a swing state. This year Obama looks to be in command. Hispanics again tell a large portion of the story.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 218

New York (31): With the third most electoral votes, New York is a major prize. However, like states one and two (CA and TX), New York has not been competitive in a while. The Empire State may have voted more enthusiastically for their own junior senator but they will elect the junior senator from Illinois by a wide margin.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 249

North Carolina (15): John Edwards never could make his home state competitive for John Kerry in 2004. However, with Edwards mired in an affair, Obama-Biden is neck-and-neck in the Tar Heel State. While recent polls seem to favour John McCain, the early voting here (like Georgia) is jaw-dropping. Over 40% of North Carolinians have already voted and over half of those are registered Democrats. With Sen. Dole (R) facing a surging Kay Hagan (D) down ballot, I expect the Democratic ground game to put this one over the top. Obama on a hunch.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 264

North Dakota (3): If North Dakota falls, the Republicans may begin tearing their hair out. They'd be justified. This state has voted Republican in the presidential contest for a dog's age. However, recent polls in North Dakota show a dead heat. Like Indiana, I just can't believe Obama can win here. I may be wrong, but I think McCain may win by 5 points.

Running Total: McCain 109, Obama 264

Ohio (20): It is oft repeated that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. It is oft repeated because it is true. However, Republicans have won Ohio and lost the election. Home to Joe the Plumber, McCain may pull Ohio out of the fire. It isn't that Obama can't win Ohio, I just feel like McCain-Palin's last minute assault on the state has worked.

Running Total: McCain 129, Obama 264

Oklahoma (7): Oklahoma is not a particularly interesting state politically. That won't change this year with McCain winning this reliably red state by a wide margin. They will also likely re-elect one of the most conservative Senators in the nation: James Inhofe.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 264

Oregon (7): In a different year, McCain could have won Oregon. In fact, earlier this year, I think he believed he could win Oregon. McCain's progressive views on global warming might have endeared him to this green state. As it is, Obama is looking like he's going to win in a walk. Things are so bad for McCain that Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) is running ads touting his work with Sen. Obama in the hopes of splitting off some of Obama's votes form his opponent.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 271 (Yes, he's over the top folks)

Pennsylvania (21): As demonstrated above, Obama doesn't need Pennsylvania state to win. It just makes his life easier. McCain threw the kitchen sink at the Keystone state. While Clinton threw the sink at Pennsylvania and came out on top, if broke, McCain is likely to come up empty. I think it may be closer than some of the polls, but still in the Democratic column. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) called his constituents racist, and it may cost him. If he does lose, he will be a rarity: a losing Democratic incumbent. It should be a very good night congressionally for the Dems.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 292

Rhode Island (4): Blue state. Blue year. Really no hope for McCain in this tiny state.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 296

South Carolina (8): If New Hampshire breaks John McCain's heart on election day, he will take some solace from South Carolina. Eight and a half years ago, Karl Rove perfected his craft in South Carolina and effectively ended McCain's quest for the White House. In spite of the large African-American population, which Bill Clinton reminded us handed Jesse Jackson the Democratic primary twice, Obama will not have enough votes to be competitive here. Look for this to be one of the first states to be called for McCain on election night.

Running Total: McCain 144, Obama 296

South Dakota (3): While some of Obama's momentum in North Dakota has pushed south of the border into South Dakota, it is nowhere near enough. South Dakota will predictably vote for John McCain. The NRSC will be kicking itself that it couldn't find a serious candidate to face recovering stroke victim Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). Running against a guy who almost died in office is difficult and the Republican bench is surprisingly short in South Dakota. Still, Johnson barely won in 2002 and should have been at the top of the NRSC target list.

Running Total: McCain 147, Obama 296

Tennessee (11): The centre piece of Obama's education policy may be volunteerism, but he has no chance in the volunteer state. Since rejecting its native son in 2000, Tennessee has become a Republican stronghold. Look for that trend to continue with McCain carrying the state in 2008.

Running Total: McCain 158, Obama 296

Texas (34): Democrats on the ground are excited about the future. The future does not mean Tuesday, however. While Hurricane refugees, a growing Hispanic population and the lack of a Bush on the ballot may pull the state closer to the Democratic column, closer not close is the operative word. Expect this one to be in the 10-15 point range for McCain.

Running Total: McCain 192, Obama 296

Utah (5): There are a lot of ways in which Utah is a quirky state. Politics, however, is fairly predictable. Unless Joseph Smith is resurrected and runs for the Democrats, the majority Mormon state is going for the Republicans. If Romney was on the ticket, the margin might have been DC silly. As it is it will just be regular old silly.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 296

Vermont (3): Vermont may have given the Democrats their largest advantage in this election and it has nothing to do with its electoral votes (although they don't hurt). Gov. Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy deserves at least some of the credit for Obama's competitiveness in deep red states. This state is ridiculously liberal for the US. Heck, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) actually describes himself as a socialist. Expect Obama to win here blindfolded with both hands tied behind his back.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 299

Virginia (13): Obama's red state strategy has been successful in a lot of states. However, Virginia may be the most dramatic. The whole "real Virginia" comment won't help McCain either. It is odd two days before a presidential election to be calling VA for the Democrats. However, I don't see how McCain can possibly win here.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 312

Washington (11): The race here is apparently for the Governor's mansion where the Democratic incumbent who won by a nose (and I mean a nose, recount and all) is running for re-election. In spite of that tension, the race for the White House here is non-existent. Like Oregon, McCain could have been more competitive here but it never really materialized. Obama shouldn't have a problem.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 323

West Virginia (5): There was a moment in this campaign that West Virginia seemed in play. It didn't last. In spite of having two high profile Democratic senators (Byrd and Rockefeller), West Virginia will go to McCain and probably handily.

Running Total: McCain 202, Obama 323

Wisconsin (10): Like Minnesota and Michigan, Wisconisn was once thought to be in play. However, McCain never really caught fire here. Obama relied on the students in Madison and elsewhere to deliver him a large primary win here. Expect a similar story on Tuesday.

Running Total: McCain 202, Obama 333

Wyoming (3): The home state of Dick Cheney is unsurprisingly about as red as they come. There are some competitive down ballot races but the top of the ticket will be predictable. McCain by a large margin.

Final Tally: McCain 205, Obama 333
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