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America the democratic


 

JJ McCullough looks enviously to the south.

Last Tuesday, Mitt Romney eked out his narrow victory in the Iowa caucus with a total of 30,015 votes. That slim tally in a single, Midwestern state is nevertheless only slightly fewer than the 31,150 votes that elected Jack Layton leader of the national New Democratic Party in 2003, and much greater than the 16,149 that elected Stephen Harper leader of the federal Conservatives in 2004

What makes these comparisons particularly odious is that Canadian party leaders aren’t really even analogous to U.S. presidential candidates — they’re much more powerful. Should Romney eventually emerge as the GOP flag-bearer, he will have precious little power to influence much of what his party supports or believes. As we’ve seen over the last three years, the President of the United States is in many ways a very weak figure subordinate to the authority of 535 free-voting Congressmen.


 

America the democratic

  1. American Population: 307,006,550
    Canadian Population: 34,108,752

    American political leader becomes America President. Power to Veto — kill any bill that the house and senate have already approved.
    Canadian political leader becomes Canada PM. Powers to prorogue government, call early elections, and appoint senators. Everything else requires the acquiescence of the MPs to get done. (Whether they give that acquiescence too quickly is a different argument.)

    Perhaps most important is that he doesn’t look at how these parties process their leadership votes.

    For the CPC, it looks at the votes from each riding area as a percentage value, and uses STV. So if you’re in a riding area where the leadership is pretty much uncontested (Calgary Southwest, for instance) there’s very little reason to vote.

    For the NDP, it does a series of rounds, dropping a candidate off each round until someone achieves 50% or more. So the number of people who vote in that final round (and then get recorded) may be considerably less than voted initially.

    So it seems what really makes these comparisons particularly odious are J.J.McCullough’s not accounting for these differences.

    • American Population: 307,006,550
      Canadian Population: 34,108,752

      Sure, but the 30,015 votes Romney got on Tuesday weren’t from across America, they were just from Iowa.

      Canadian Population: 34,108,752
      Population of Iowa:  3,062,309

      Romney’s only two states in to the primary season and 127,547 Americans have already voted for him.  Has the leader of a Canadian political party ever received over 100,000 votes in any type of contest, ever?  The only issue involving a Canadian political party leader that got that kind of support from the public that I can think of is the drive to get Stockwell Day to change his name to Doris, LOL.

      Everything else requires the acquiescence of the MPs to get done.  

      Doesn’t that gloss over the fact that the Prime Minister is not just the leader of the Executive but also leader of the Legislative branch as well?  It seems to me that while the PM doesn’t have a veto, he has SIGNIFICANTLY more power to influence the legislature than the President does, ESPECIALLY in a majority government.  Outside of very odd coalition arrangements, a PM will never be in a position where a Party other than the PM’s own controls more seats in the legislature than the Prime Minister does.  The President, on the other hand, is not infrequently faced with a legislature where the MAJORITY of seats are held by another Party.  Obama may have more power to stop legislation, but I’d argue that he has less power to create and pass legislation.  CONSIDERABLY less power than a majority PM has.  So, Obama’s power to stop congress from passing something crazy is an advantage over the PM, but the PM’s ability to make the House pass something crazy is a significantly more important advantage imho (I’d much rather have the ability to force change through than the ability to stop changes from being forced through).  Besides, minorities aside, when would a majority PM even WANT to veto a bill?  I can’t even imagine a scenario in which a bill that Stephen Harper would veto if he could makes it all the way to third reading in the House of Commons.  Hell, I can’t even imagine the IDEA of such a bill managing to get outside of a Tory caucus meeting.

      • See Jim R’s comment below.
        Then take into account the population difference where each Canadian vote represents is 10x the percentage of Canadian voting as compared to American ones.  So at the end of the tour, unless their winner has over 670,000 votes under him, he’s still under the number of comparable Canadian votes for Harper.

        As to the rest of your comment, I’ll point out it *still* all requires the acquiescence of the other MPs.  Whether they be of the governing party or not. As we’ve seen very recently, there are occasions when MPs actually represent their constituencies over their party and vote against the party line.

        Whether they do so often enough is an open question, but you can’t simply claim the PM has this huge amount of power when in reality it’s the MP’s that hold that power — they just don’t exercise it very often.


        • So at the end of the tour, unless their winner has over 670,000 votes under him, he’s still under the number of comparable Canadian votes for Harper. 

          Romney will get well over 670,000 votes LOOOOOONG before the primaries are done.  Easily.  Even if he loses the nomination, lol!!!

          He’ll get there before the vote has been put to 30,000,000 Americans too. 

           If Romney is still under 670,000 votes after the next two primaries (South Carolina and Florida) I’ll be SHOCKED.  At that point, the total population of states in which primaries will have been held – IO, NH, SC, FL – will be about 30 million.  Romney got over 600,000 votes in Florida alone in 2008 (in a LOSING bid to McCain) so frankly, I expect the Florida primary on it’s own may well give Romney enough votes to satisfy your 670,000 bar.


        • As we’ve seen very recently, there are occasions when MPs actually represent their constituencies over their party and vote against the party line
          .

          Can you cite any examples from history of a majority government losing a vote on a piece of legislation that the PM really wanted passed?  Or more importantly, an example of a majority government passing legislation that the PM of the day DIDN’T want passed.

          Obama’s veto is great in the American system, but so long as he’s got a majority, what kind of absolutely insane scenario would have to occur for a Canadian Prime Minister to have to use a veto to stop legislation passed by a majority of the House of Commons???  

          I think the fact that the power is technically in the hands of MPs is largely irrelevant.  Power only matters if it’s used, and I can’t even IMAGINE a scenario in which a Prime Minister’s caucus would allow legislation to pass that the PM didn’t want passed.

          • Except.. again, it’s the *MP*s.. I keep telling you this, and you keep trying to deflect the argument to specific caucuses. Minority governments cause the PM to lose a huge amount of his supposed “power”.. but that’s because that power only exists when he has the support of the majority of the house.. ergo.. the MPs are the one who have the power.

            Meanwhile, the President’s veto power doesn’t go away simple because he faces a hostile house/senate. (Although I’ve heard that even that can be overruled by enough votes in the house/senate.. is that true? If so, that is rather interesting.)

          • Your point about minority parliaments is true enough, but I’m not suggesting that minority PMs are arguably more powerful (relatively speaking) than the U.S. President, only majority PMs. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. Minority PM’s are often outvoted in the legislature. It’s almost inevitable. However, MAJORITY PMs? The PM can always allow a free vote if he doesn’t really care if something passes or not, but I can’t think of a single example of a Parliament under a majority government passing a piece of legislation that the Prime Minister of the day really didn’t want passed.

            As for Presidential vetoes, when the President gets a Bill he either signs it within 10 days, or returns it to Congress unsigned within 10 days. When Congress gets it back they can vote again, and if they can get a two thirds majority in both houses, then the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law without the President’s signature.

  2. Yet more A. Wherry irrelevance.

  3. “As we’ve seen over the last three years, the President of the United
    States is in many ways a very weak figure subordinate to the authority
    of 535 free-voting Congressmen.”

    You mean Obama is a very weak figure subordinate to the authority of Congress, right?

    • I think he means any President.  Though, obviously, a President who faces majorities in either House from the other party is less powerful than a President who’s party controls both Houses, but that sort of situation does’t historically last very long I don’t think.

      • Oh, I know what he meant, and I think he’s wrong. Look, Obama ran on the specific promise to work with others to get big things done. When he got into power, he used Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to shove through his unpopular agenda, and he hasn’t recovered since. He’s responsible for his own weakness.

        George Bush never had super majorities in the House or the Senate, but he got things done.

        Ronald Reagan was probably the most substantial president since FDR, and faced big Dem majorities in Congress.

        Obama suffers from fundamental shortage of leadership, and his only desperate hope of getting re-elected it to blame everyone else but himself.


        • George Bush never had super majorities in the House or the Senate, but he got things done. 

          Ronald Reagan was probably the most substantial president since FDR, and faced big Dem majorities in Congress. 

          Obama suffers from fundamental shortage of leadership, and his only desperate hope of getting re-elected it to blame everyone else but himself.

          That’s one way of looking at it.  Another, is that the Democrats under Bush and Reagan’s terms were willing to work with the President to get things done, and the Republicans under Obama’s term are batsh*t crazy, lol.

          • Yes, Obama and his apologists love blaming everyone else for his own failures. Yes, the Republicans in Congress are smarter and stronger than he is. That’s the hope and change America voted for, isn’t it.

          • Look at up here. Harper first got into office with the slimmest of minorities, and has been able to get things done despite an opposition that’s been hollering and screaming every step of the way. Some people would say that’s leadership. Maybe Obama should have taken notes. Just saying.

  4. Might be more compelling if he had done his research. The number of “votes” he’s counting in the 2004 CPC leadership race are actually allocated points per riding. Almost 100K people voted, 67K for the PM.

    • Still pretty compelling though, imho.  Romney’s only two states into the race (two states with a combined population less than that of B.C.) and already he has over 127,000 votes in what is still technically a six person race.

      I’m not sure that any party leader in Canada has EVER received over 100,000 votes in any type of contest whatsoever in the history of the nation.

      • 100,000 votes in the Canadian system is the equivalent of a million under the American.  Or to reverse that, 127,000 is the equivalent of 12,700.. a far cry from 67k.

        • 100,000 votes in the Canadian system is the equivalent of a million under the American. 

          Not when we’re only counting votes from Iowa and New Hampshire it isn’t!

          Again, those 127,000 votes for Romney don’t represent the entirety of the American system.  That’s just Iowa and New Hampshire.  He didn’t get that tally of votes from a pool of over 300,000,000 Americans, he got those votes from a pool of less than 5 million people in Iowa and New Hampshire.  

          So, sure, you can argue that we should divide Romney’s votes by 10 because we’re comparing the U.S. to Canada, but it makes no sense whatsoever to divide just the votes from New Hampshire and Iowa by 10!  New Hampshire and Iowa have a combined population smaller than B.C., not 10 times that of Canada.

          To put it another way, by the time the South Carolina and Florida primaries are over, Romney will have formally presented his candidacy for judgement by a total pool of Americans still significantly smaller than the total population of Canada, and I’m quite confident he’ll have well over 670,000 votes at that point.  Hell, he could very well get over 670,000 votes in Florida alone (he got over 600,000 votes in Florida in 2008 and LOST to McCain).

          In other words, I’m CERTAIN that Romney will exceed your 10x requirement within the next 2-3 primaries, looooong before the votes of 30 million Americans have been counted.

          • Fair enough. I’ll concede the numbers point — as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t follow US politics very closely. Now there’s just every other point that was made as to why a straight up comparison is bogus.

            Do the primaries run using STV? Do they count ridings out of 100 points? Does the fact that most Canadians will not have the PM’s name on their ballot perhaps make just a *wee* bit of difference?

            I mean yeah, if we started a system where we could elect the PM directly, I’d bet we see a lot more Canadian interest in who the leaders of the parties specifically were as well. Does that mean we have less democracy? Or a different system?

            Another metric is simply votes over time. How long do the primaries take? How long do Canadian leadership conventions last? Do we want even more of our leaders’ time taken up officially campaigning?

          • Those are all good points, and I don’t mean to compare the level of “democracy” between our two SYSTEMS, simply the level of Democracy involved in how we choose the leaders of our political parties versus how the Americans do it (in this case I think it’s fair to count the Presidential nominee as the leader of his Party, even though there’s a separate head of the GOP, just like we consider Harper to be the leader of his party, even though the CPC’s President is technically John Walsh).

            And I can’t even fathom how someone could argue that the process for leader selection used by ANY of the major Canadian political parties is even in the same LEAGUE as the U.S. primary system in terms of democratic legitimacy. In many states, citizens who aren’t even members of the Republican Party are allowed to vote in the Republican primary for Pete’s sake.

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