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BTC: He talks in maths


 

When—let’s assume it’s inevitable—you pick up the election edition of Maclean’s, you’ll find, among other tales of adventure and woe, a fine accounting of the Conservative party’s electoral prowess. Political “genius” is fleeting and often nothing more than a figment of the imagination, but there is probably something—either horrifying or commendable—to be said for what the Harper Conservatives have done here. Which is to say, there is something to be said for reducing all of this nonsense to a series of geographic and demographic equations. Politics as a mathematical exercise. Nothing worth doing if it doesn’t equal votes.

In that regard, a few numbers to consider.

Stephen Harper can now claim two of the five smallest mandates, by popular vote, since 1900. To wit.

1. Clark, 1979 35.9%
2. Harper, 2006 36.3%
3. Martin, 2004 36.7%
4. Diefenbaker, 1962 37.2%
5. Harper, 2008 37.6% 

He can also now claim to have presided over two of the four least-voted-upon elections since 1900. To wit.

1. Harper, 2008 59.1%
2. Martin, 2004 60.9%
3. Chretien, 2000 64.1%
4. Harper, 2006 64.7%
5. Meighen, 1925 66.4%

So. Various questions to which I can claim no definitive answers.

In a rational world, at what point, philosophically speaking, would the size, or lack thereof, of a government’s mandate behoove it to cooperate with other parties? Or, to put it in terms Patrick Muttart would understand, at what point is it politically expedient for Stephen Harper to be seen cooperating with the other parties to make Parliament work?

In terms of voter turnout, to what degree does Stephen Harper depend upon a certain level of voter cynicism—both to discourage scrutiny of his own policies and demoralize his opponent’s supporters—to win? (The Prime Minister spent much of the last campaign saying that Stephane Dion was lying to you about the costs of a carbon tax, that it was all a barely concealed plot to rob you and your family, that it would ruin the economy and even threaten national unity. This compelled Mr. Dion to argue that, no, it was Stephen Harper who was lying. And so it was that the public had its worst instincts about politicians confirmed by the two men running to lead the country.) Do I read correctly, in the post-election analysis, that Mr. Harper’s greatest quality was his ability to put politics first and Mr. Dion’s greatest weakness was his inability to abandon principle? If so, is everybody ok with that? Does there ever come a point where the former approach manifests itself in such a degree of cynicism that the public rejects it and rewards the latter approach? Is this the way things have always been and the way things will always be? Or merely the way things are at the moment?

And finally, getting back to Muttart’s work, does his demographic study lead to a better understanding of voters or a better understanding of how best to manipulate voters? 

Actually, never mind that one. It’s a matter of perspective. Here’s a better question: Is it the responsibility of our leaders to placate us or lead us? Sure, it’s probably possible for them to do both, but if you wanted them to put more emphasis or one or the other, would you choose to be placated or led? Are we so basically cynical at this point that we refuse to invest the trust necessary to be led? Does anyone wanting to lead then have to placate us first? And does any of the above help explain Barack Obama’s appeal?


 

BTC: He talks in maths

  1. Here are some numbers for everyone.

    1993
    Reform Party – Preston Manning – 19%
    Progressive Conservative – Kim Campbell – 16%
    Conservative total – 35%

    1997
    Reform Party – Preston Manning – 19%
    Progressive Conservative – Jean Charest – 19%
    Conservative total – 38%

    2000
    Canadian Alliance – Stockwell Day – 25%
    Progressive Conservative – Joe Clark – 12%
    Conservative total – 37%

    2004
    Conservative Party – Stephen Harper – 29%
    Conservative total – 29%

    2006
    Conservative Party – Stephen Harper – 36%
    Conservative total – 36%

    2008
    Conservative Party – Stephen Harper – 37%
    Conservative total – 37%

  2. “Does there ever come a point where the former approach manifests itself in such a degree of cynicism that the public rejects it and rewards the latter approach? Is this the way things have always been and the way things will always be? Or merely the way things are at the moment?”

    How old are you? I will give you two examples of why this question: Is this the way things have always been and the way things will always be? Or merely the way things are at the moment?” should not have needed to be asked.

    1. “Zap, you’re frozen” (Trudeau/Stanfield)

    2. “We will axe the tax” (GST/Chretien)

  3. Conservatives cold and calculating,

    Liberals pure and principled.

    I see.

    I asked this once before, but I don’t believe I received a response, so I’ll try again:

    Have you given any thought to registering this blog with Libblogs?

    As opposed to continuing with the pretext that this blog is somehow politically neutral?

    Oh well, if CNN, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the AP and Reuters,

    are willing to actively promote the Democratic party under the guise of “balanced news reporting” why not this blog.

    Oh,

    Orson Scott Card has an editorial out entitled, “Would the last honest journalist please turn out the lights”.

    He’s a democrat and a journalist and he’s ashamed how the media is in the tank for the Dems.

    In my opinion, its not shame that the current media has to worry about, its the free market.

    Whether reporters and their supportive editors wish to misappropriate corporate assets to further their own political beliefs (they almost all tend to uniformly lean left – too many reasons to go into here), is principally the immediate concern of the shareholders.

    But the public pays for the straight goods, and yes “balance”. All but the most ardent leftists would agree with this statement.

    Folks will seek out sources they can’t trust to get that balance and the straight facts.

    It’s simple market mechanisms.

    Cue the NY Times stock prices, circulation, and ad revenues over the past two years.

    (hint: the chart looks like a black diamond ski slope)

  4. 38.46% – Chretien – 1997

    If only Harper could reach this %, then he’d have a mandate.

  5. This has all the whiff of “Is Canada really going to re-elect the jerks?” Not entirely surprising, considering the author…

    As for voter turnout, can a Canadian elections scholar tell us what happened to “turnout” when the electoral “list” system went permanent? When it became as easy as a check box on the tax return, I wonder how many people are now on the list who would never have been before. Dead people. Non-citizens. People who were never inclined to vote before and did not place themselves on the door-to-door enumeration list anyways, but who now suddenly “count.” Anyone?

  6. Mr. Wherry, you are right and you are wrong.

    Yes, voter turnout is low – but is that Harper’s fault? The NDP and Liberals ran overwhelmingly negative (and anti-Harper) campaigns themselves.

    Secondly, I’m not sure low voter turnout diminishes a mandate. When do people vote? When the stakes of their voting are high. Hence, turnout in the free trade election, or in the 1995 referendum was very high. The stakes of this election, evidently, were not very high. Despite Dion’s proclamation that this was the most important election of a generation, and that we had to cast out the antichrist Bush incarnate in 24 Sussex, people didn’t bother. So it is not clear that people not voting diminish a mandate. We don’t accuse people of voting wrong, and yet we assume something is wrong when people don’t care about politics – but each are reasoned defensible choices (from a rational choice perspective, voting is not rational).

  7. Wow, Wherry sure knows how to drink the Liberal kool-aid.

    “Do I read correctly, in the post-election analysis, that Mr. Harper’s greatest quality was his ability to put politics first and Mr. Dion’s greatest weakness was his inability to abandon principle?”

    It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, the statement is wrong.

    Mr. Harper’s greatest quality was his policies. Mr. Dion’s worst quality was his policies, starting with a disaster of an economic policy, the green shift, that would have provided no benefits whatsoever to anyone.

    Sure, Mr Dion had principles, all of them dead-wrong. His principles are a recipe for disaster and aimlessness. Why is it so hard for the media to wrap their heads around that fact?

  8. And another thing, the only reason Harper’s totals are low, historically speaking, is because nearly 20% of the countries’ seats are occupied by a regional separatist party.

    I mean, c’mon. You are suggesting that because there is a separatist party that has resulted in this minority, it behooves Harper to cooperate with the separatists. If there were no seapratist party, Harper would have a majority.

    So you are advocating separatism, in a very indirect manner.

  9. sf, i guess you missed this this.

    Wassim,

    Reform Party + PC

    is like

    Liberal + NDP

    …missleading, no?

  10. To answer your questions in a rational world:
    Or, to put it in terms Patrick Muttart would understand, at what point is it politically expedient for Stephen Harper to be seen cooperating with the other parties to make Parliament work?
    Yes Harper has a week mandate that makes it politically expedient to work with the other parties. If it means being forced to commit to Kyoto or the Kelowna accord, he must abide. Mostly because the way he does politics is to blame for low voter turnout and a small minority.
    Yes Harper has tried to fuel voter cynicism to win despite the best efforts of the opposition parties to keep things civil.
    Do I read correctly, in the post-election analysis, that Mr. Harper’s greatest quality was his ability to put politics first and Mr. Dion’s greatest weakness was his inability to abandon principle?
    Yes you read things correctly. Harper has no ideas worth debating therefore he had to throw mud at Dion to tear him down with every dirty political trick in the book. Unfortunately a principled, decent man and all his good ideas had to go down with him.
    Is it the responsibility of our leaders to placate us or lead us.
    We should be led. Harper does not lead the way Dion would have led. As you have stated Harper wins by being unprincipled and trying to placate and manipulate me into voting for him. At least Dion didn’t try to do that. You have to love how much Liberals work at being so honest, caring, with all Canadians.

  11. Conbots assemble! Conbots assemble!

  12. I think it’s wrong to read much into this election from a philosophical or Machiavellian POV. It boils down to Harper having dragged his party sufficiently towards the centre that the Liberals were forced to dream up some crazy-ass idea (what was it called again?) to make themselves (or rather their leader) look different. This robbed the Liberals of their centrist attraction and led to vote-splitting on the left. End of story. If there was a single real issue in this campaign apart from the Sheen Grift, I missed it. Typical Canadian election, in other words, and nobody’s a genius for making the obvious happen.

    The catch is, of course, Quebec. If you gave the Tories and the Liberals each half of the BQ vote, Harper would be in majority territory both seat-wise and percentage-wise. Which means . . . nothing except that the country is ungovernable at present, until Quebeckers decide to opt back into being grown-ups.

  13. until Quebeckers decide to opt back into being grown-ups.

    Reasonable comment up until this point. When I start thinking about pooping puffins and sweater vests, I start wondering about who the grow ups are.

  14. “Are we so basically cynical at this point that we refuse to invest the trust necessary to be led? Does anyone wanting to lead then have to placate us first?”

    If by “we” you mean the Canadian middle class, I don’t think they’re cynical, I think they’re selfish. So, yes, they have to be placated, but there’s about 15% of their electoral brain that wants to show trust and be inspired and be led. Maybe it’s higher than that, but I doubt it. We live in the single most materialistic period in our history, counting the 1950’s. Dion accused Harper of not caring about Canadians’ economic anxeties, but actually it was Dion who failed to do the obligatory placating of Canadian materialism. Which is both admirable and profoundly stupid.

  15. Ti-Guy: “Reasonable comment up until this point. When I start thinking about pooping puffins and sweater vests, I start wondering about who the grow ups are.”

    No, you’re right, Ti-Guy. Sigh. The Bloc did actually talk like grown-ups for most of the campaign, much more so than others I could name. I do consider the “What’s in it for Quebec?” line tedious and infantile, but actually it’s not more so than what we’ve got going in the ROC.

    I maintain hope that Quebec will become interested in Canadian politics again when we do get a leader who can both placate and lead.

  16. On leading vs. placating: neither one appeals to me personally. In life, events occur that require political solutions or political management. I’m much more concerned that we, as citizens,get the information and the evidence about those things, after which people can decide on political approaches which are more in tune with their own values.

    I don’t see Harper as leading at all. I see him as gulling and in an age when people are distracted by information overload, people are easily gulled.

  17. Right, right. If the public didn’t get on side it’s because the Tories are too (successful and) mean.

    The media, including Maclean’s, could really have made more of Harper’s assertion in the debate — correct as far as I can find out online from the Grit platform but I would honestly love to be corrected — that Dion’s “balanced” fiscal plan involves $12 billion in cuts he never specified. Neither the media or the Liberals ever really disputed it.

    People inclined to view average Canadians as reasonable might reckon that those who didn’t vote saw no huge stakes for them. But if you persist, Aaron, why not position your dissent straightforwardly this way:

    “Can’t we assume that the people who don’t vote are really in a way voting, against the party I don’t like?”

  18. I miss the days when I liked scrolling through the comments here.

  19. Wow, touchy crowd, that Harper cheer squad. When their own leader chooses to avoid policies (only until late and the heat’s on does he put together a pamphlet loaded with personal photos), require that many of his candidates avoid media questions and scrutiny by possibly non-supporters, serves up the conditions of an election by penning a book (no wonder he hasn’t finished that hockey tome! Maybe John Howard’s working on that) on how to disrupt the parliamentary commitee process and then with gall breaks his own election timing act by whining ‘Parliament is too disfunctional’, I’m amazed that they aren’t just high-fivin’ each other and shouting to the 63.3% who didn’t vote for them (and hugging those who chose not to vote) ‘In your face!’ before heading off to a toga drink-off.
    Yep, Chretien did promise to axe the tax. But he didn’t take out ads a year before the election to paint Mulroney as a heartless singer, nor did Trudeau spend half the 1972-74 government calling Stanfield a ‘Viet-cong lover’ or whatever.
    Don’t like Wherry’s comments? Stick with your smile of the day tripe.

  20. Orson Scott Card has an editorial out entitled, “Would the last honest journalist please turn out the lights”.

    He’s a democrat and a journalist and he’s ashamed how the media is in the tank for the Dems

    Orson Scott Card is a Democrat? Maybe in the way Jews for Jesus are Jewish, but that’s about it.

  21. Maybe party politics would work better if they abandon running in every riding even if they don’t have a good candidate. Here there were four absent candidates in four ridings. Then the number of dinder heads that dropped out nationally last campaign is embarrassing. with this multiparty system, how long before we degenerate into Italian/Japanese coalition governments that don’t last two years? Oops, didn’t that just take place?

  22. For an answer to the question you posed, about the threshold at which voter cynicism progresses to voter outrage and commitment to change, one need only to look south.

    The upshot: all it takes to revitalize democracy is a few thousand casualties in a war launched over false pretenses, a tanked global financial system, tens of thousands of foreclosed homes, a few botched natural disaster responses, and a half-trillion dollar deficit.

  23. Great! Let’s great crackin’.

  24. “comment by Mike G on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 2:24 am:

    I miss the days when I liked scrolling through the comments here.”

    Me too Mike. I’m hoping it will go back to normal soon now that the election is over, but so far it’s not looking good. Don’t even get me started on the comments at the G&M.

  25. “Yep, Chretien did promise to axe the tax. But he didn’t take out ads a year before the election to paint Mulroney as a heartless singer, nor did Trudeau spend half the 1972-74 government calling Stanfield a ‘Viet-cong lover’ or whatever.
    Don’t like Wherry’s comments? Stick with your smile of the day tripe.”

    Paraphrase: “Dat ees unfair”

  26. “Reasonable comment up until this point. When I start thinking about pooping puffins and sweater vests, I start wondering about who the grow ups are.”

    Let me guess, the grown-ups in your world are those who can’t complete a single coherent sentence without spitting out BushHarper, or American-style or Republican.

  27. “nothing except that the country is ungovernable at present, until Quebeckers decide to opt back into being grown-ups.”

    This is coming from someone who told me, a Quebecer, and I quote, “People like you don’t deserve to be Canadian.”

  28. Placated. I don’t need a glorious utopia to be led towards. People have a tendency to be shot following the doctrines of Hegel, Freud and Marx.

    However, if I’m being placated, at least I’m being consulted and considered when policies are being created.

    Of course this requires an informed and willing to compromise electorate to work properly.

  29. People have a tendency to be shot following the doctrines of Hegel, Freud and Marx.

    And people have a tendency to be trampled underfoot following the doctrines of Friedman, Hayek and Rand.

  30. I miss the days when I liked scrolling through the comments here.

    How passive-aggressive.

  31. Let me guess, the grown-ups in your world are those who can’t complete a single coherent sentence without spitting out BushHarper, or American-style or Republican.

    Huh?

  32. Here are some numbers for everyone.

    But Wassim, Canada is becoming a more conservative country! Someone said that on TV, so it must be true.

  33. “Paraphrase: “Dat ees unfair””

    You’re right. The best way to demonstrate maturity is to mock someone’s accent. How about ‘I’m rubber, you’re glue…”

  34. Aaron : a profund question indeed however it is based on a premise that isn’t accurate and has been taken to an extreme however let’s establish this as the a priori = I would answer that only children to be led and adults need to be placated. Otherwise we fall into an ancient trap the need for the King all hail great leader long live Ceasar (until of course the inevitable tearing down and crucifying of the straw dog king) as the LPC is in the very process of doing right now and which is actually only a way of the people being ‘ led ‘ avoiding the responsibility of their own decisions which is the attitude of a child who will automatically seek to avoid their own guilt – this is the logical extrapolation of your point

  35. sf:

    ““nothing except that the country is ungovernable at present, until Quebeckers decide to opt back into being grown-ups.”

    This is coming from someone who told me, a Quebecer, and I quote, “People like you don’t deserve to be Canadian.”

    Gee, sf, you’ve got a long memory. Actually I had no idea you were a Quebecker at the time, the more so since you were going rather against the Quebec grain by suggesting, IIRC, that artists be dropped from helicopters so that we can all save a few bucks. Anyway, Ti-Guy corrected me that the ROC is looking a little more infantile than Bloc country these days, and right he is, thanks to good folks like yourself who make Gilles Duceppe look like a profound political thinker. T’es content?

  36. JM: Yes, it’s true, suggesting that arts funding should not be expropriated through mandatory taxation, avoidance of which is punishable with jail time, that is something truly equivalent to dropping artists from helicopters. Because we all know that only government knows what art is good for us. Decisions about what art we spend our money on should not be left to the common man! Choosing our own art? That is equivalent to killing artists! No doubt.

    And coincidentally, logic like this is exactly what we can expect from great thinkers like Duceppe.

  37. “Sure, Mr Dion had principles, all of them dead-wrong. His principles are a recipe for disaster and aimlessness. Why is it so hard for the media to wrap their heads around that fact?”

    SF – other countries are using these principles and they are not disasters. I think Sweden, Denmark and Norway provide examples. I don’t believe that reductions of carbon emissions are guaranteed with a carbon tax, at least not yet. My understanding is that Sweden has been successful whereas perhaps Denmark has not. The same thing can be said about the cap and trade system.

    In the end, a tax on emissions is a tax on emissions. Canadians will ultimately pay for this, be it through a carbon tax (Libs or Greens) or cap and trade (Cons and NDP). The more you use, the more you pay.

    It’s like the election campaign all over again… Here’s a simple comparison of two approaches taken in the election. The Cons did their best to portray the Green Shift as a tax grab, tax and spend, make everything more expensive policy. The other parties simply pointed out factually that the Cons plan was soft in that it had soft targets being intensity based on 2000 levels. Of these two approaches, one uses exaggerations and incorrect allegations whereas the other approach points out simple facts.

    It’s ironic, polls showed that a large portion of Canadians are very concerned about the environment and climate change, yet the Conservatives helped themselves get elected by scaring people away from meaningful action on the environment. Exactly how do people expect to address their worries if this is how they vote? To this point I think the biggest issue is that people simply are not engaged enough to vote, and outrageous attack ads certainly do not help. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Cons are not the only ones guilty of attack ads. I wonder how the voter turnout would play if parties were forbidden from mentioning or referencing any of the other parties during the campaign?

  38. btw, how are quotes managed on these blogs? Is it typical wordpress html? [em]I guess I’ll find out once I post this comment.[/em]

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