Y’all better be right
Note to supremely confident pundits: if Barack Obama doesn’t win tonight, we’re coming after you.
The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson wins the prize for most strident premature declaration of Obama victory, arguing “this business in recent days of ‘how [John] McCain can win’ was sheer journalistic foolishness,” and that Americans “will vote—and vote decisively—for Senator Obama” today. And while he’s sure Obama will break some of his election promises—indeed, as is Simpson’s habit, he urges him to—and that “there will be some Americans who will resent him as a black president,” we can now look forward to having “that most cherished of attributes: judgment” back in the White House. Good judgment, he means, and we agree. But if McCain somehow pulls off a miracle, Simpson’s pretty much going to have to resign his column.
Count Peter Worthington, who can’t get past McCain’s “uncanny gift of salvaging victories from seemingly certain defeats,” among the journalistically foolish. Polls “indicate a certain volatility among the electorate,” he opines in the Toronto Sun, and the wide range of polling results indicates “unease among those who analyze and predict.” In short, he says, “uncertainty reigns.” Who’ll stay home? Where will the undecideds go (to McCain, Worthington suspects)? Will there be a meteor strike? Stay tuned…
In the Toronto Star, James Travers suggests an Obama victory might spread tolerance, love and peaceful ambition throughout the world—even to its most anti-American corners. “If the Great Satan can overcome its history and prejudices, then surely others can find understanding and accommodation in their hearts.” (Hmm. Okay, tell you what, Mr. Travers. You head over to Waziristan to check that out and report back, and we’ll mind the fort here.) This, it seems to us, assumes an excessive level of rationality in the average jihadi, but hey, anything’s possible. And Travers is certainly correct that the fairly rapid pace of change in American society that an Obama presidency would represent—40 years ago, he notes, 10 million Americans voted for George Wallace—should be a kick in Canada’s arse. If they can overcome that, surely we can solve child poverty and “erase the shames of aboriginal life.”
The National Post’s Jonathan Kay is a little more realistic about the possibilities of a sea change in America’s reputation abroad, but he does believe electing a black president will remove a key argument from the quiver of people like Hugo Chavez, who inevitably cite racism in their indictments of America. “It will at least prove that America has finally become a fundamentally post-racial society,” he argues—“a place where tribal loyalties are based on ideology, not skin colour.” And for that, he suggests, people of all ideological tribes should cheer if Obama closes the deal tonight. (How long, we wonder, until we can become post-tribal? Dare we hope another mere five decades?)
The Globe’s Doug Saunders adds a very pleasant assortment of facts to the annoyingly ethereal theory that Canadian and European leaders, hopelessly besotted with President Obama, will happily flood Afghanistan with troops and lead the NATO coalition to victory. “Military and government officials in the United States and Europe” do indeed hold out hope that Obama will have more success than George W. Bush in mustering troops, Saunders reports—“to a surprising degree, even.” But on the record, these officials aren’t exactly promising the moon. James Dobbins, formerly Bush’s envoy in Afghanistan, describes the effect as “not negligible”; Charles Kupchan, formerly director of the National Security Council, says there’s “a reasonable prospect of Obama getting the Europeans to do more.” And a reasonable prospect, we can only assume, of him not.
In the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Cohen argues the 2008 campaign, whatever its outcome, was fundamentally “amazing”—from the downfall of “inevitable” candidates like Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton to the triumph of no-hopers Obama and McCain, to the “diversity” of the candidates on offer (“a Mormon [Mitt Romney], an Italian-American, a Hispanic-American [Bill Richardson] and an African-American”), to the surge in participation in the campaign and the massive amounts of money raised and spent. Amazing!
No longer must presidential candidates “account for [their] choices” during the Vietnam War, the Globe’s John Ibbitson observes. Southerners are “ready to lay the Old South to rest”; African-Americans “see themselves as something other than angry victims”; the youth of America is “ready to push the boomers aside”; and the Internet “has revolutionized politics.” Obama saw all that, Ibbitson suggests, even if the rest of America didn’t, and voters flocked to him. Meanwhile, John McCain can’t even use a computer. Whatever “risk” Obama’s thin résumé represents, Ibbitson concludes, “Americans seem to have decided it’s worth [it].”
News from the have-not provinces, plus B.C.
The Post’s John Ivison is thoroughly unconvinced by Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan’s claim to have anticipated the province’s reduction to “have-not” status under the equalization formula. If he had, Ivison asks, why didn’t he “raise any objections to the new plan introduced by Jim Flaherty … that reduces the amount Ottawa will spend on equalization next year by $2-billion”? Good question. And in Ivison’s view, it’s further evidence that while its campaign for “fairness” from Ottawa has merit, the current financial situation means “Ontario is going to have to take responsibility for its own future.”
Indeed, the Globe’s Murray Campbell sees little hope the provincial economy will rebound the way it did the other times it has flirted with have-not status. “The plants that have been closing weekly for the past few years are not going to be reopened,” he warns. And Ontarians better enjoy their $347 million in equalization while it lasts. “Mr. Flaherty is right that the equalization scheme threatens to spiral out of control,” Campbell argues, and “no one has ever examined whether the program is doing what it was intended to do. He needs to go the extra step and rethink—and may God give us strength to endure it —a program that has lost its way.”
In the wake of last week’s provincial by-elections, where both the Green and Conservative candidates scored in the fringe-party range, the Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer previews what he suspects will be provincial reenactment of the brouhaha over who should be included in leaders’ debates.
The Gazette’s Don Macpherson sets up an epic battle between the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce riding association and Jean Charest, who seemed to be mulling over parachuting a francophone into the riding, in violation of a proud tradition of anglophones. But, um, he isn’t going to do that as it turns out. So it was all a bit of a tease.