Pondering the US election from a Canadian perspective


US editorial cartoonCanadians often find US politics mystifying, no more so than during presidential elections. It’s not just their byzantine electoral college system (which truly baffles us – even when explained concisely as in the video below).

It’s not just the differences between America’s republican governance system and our parliamentary system (although they do contribute mightily to the confusion since they are so dissimilar). These are process issues that can be sorted out through reading and study.

What baffles us – or at least me – is the increasingly vituperative language of the candidates, their advertising, and even of the post-debate analysts (not the whinging idiots like Ann Coulter and her foul-mouthed Fox media co-conspirators, but rather the real political pundits).
Political cartoon
Canadians watch the debates, we read, and we listen to your candidates with perhaps as much excitement as Americans. After all, this is high drama. But we don’t understand why the far right labels the less-than-far-right as “left” or even “socialist” – as if that was a bad thing.

From our perspective, the Democrats are only a hair left of the Republicans, not enough to make a difference. They’re both right-wing. It’s a bit like the difference between our “red” and “blue” Tories – two shades of the same party. Both major US parties are right wing – both support big military spending over education and medical care, both support wacky gun laws and NRA extremism, both parties have propped up a variety of international dictators when in power, both maintain an ideological position on the Middle East as opposed to a rational one, both have failed to actively intervene when fundamentalist dunces get superstition and myth inserted into state school curricula in place of science and reason. And both have helped ruin the environment and kill the space program. Those are right-wing policies.

We have real left parties in Canada and we’re rather fond of them (the NDP, a mid-left socialist party, is our Official Opposition and stands a fair chance of winning a government sometime soon; the Bloc Quebecois was the opposition from 1993-97, and is very left as well as being separatist). We know what the word “socialist” actually means – and it has nothing to do with the Democrats.*

Many Canadians are proud to be called socialist – it’s a compliment, not an insult. To call a Democrat a socialist is, from our perspective, like calling a fish a bicycle: nonsensical.

The US has both Communist and socialist parties that run candidates in at least some elections. Although they are almost unknown to Americans outside their own circle, they actually stand for the left-leaning things Communists and Socialists stand for, not what the Democrats stand for (sorry, Ann Coulter, for all your rabid hectoring, you are again wrong about the Democrats, but that’s hardly news).

We do, too (we have five major political parties and oodles of fringe parties including Communists and Trotskyists – as well as some uber-right fundamentalist parties). Many run candidates in federal elections. They usually only get a couple of hundred votes, not enough to be more than a minor note in the electoral process. Mostly they provide comic relief at election time.

But if you want to talk leftist, talk the REAL left, not the Democrats. Talk to me about Marxism, Communism, Leninism, Maoism. Talk to me about state-run economies and state-run industries, central planning and single-party systems. Don’t try to spin medicare as a leftist policy.

US elections are more about money than Canadian elections. I was astounded to hear the report on the BILLIONS of dollars raised to fuel the US election. That’s for advertising, media relations, campaigning and, of course, spin. Billions for EACH party. It’s like watching a battle between two giant, hostile corporations, rather than two people or even two parties. Six billion – $2.5 of that on the presidential race alone – will be spent in 2012 alone, as explained in this infographic on Creditseason.com.
Tea party cartoon
We do have one thing in common, however. The ideological change that has transformed the Republicans into the Tea Party has also transformed our own Conservative party into its Canadian equivalent. Both parties have polarized their federal politics and demonized any and everything that opposes them. The age of mature, civil debate ended under their attack-style politics. It’s very sad because they have destroyed any viable space for moderate conservatives. If you’re not a radical rightist, a bigot, xenophobe and fundamentalist, you must be the enemy. Facts give way to ideology. Reminds me a lot of the 1930s… (disinformation overriding facts even happened here, on the local level recently, but that was about rec facilities, not party politics).

From my Canadian perspective, the US election is about three things: race, gender and entitlement. One side has lined up a pro-white, keep-em-in-the-kitchen-no-abortion-even-if-raped, give-rich-people-a-break, my-god-is-a-jealous-god platform. The other is more inclusive of races, support’s women’s rights, fair taxation, religious tolerance and a minimal (NOT socialist) health care system that is merely 100 or so years behind European and Canadian models. But neither are in any way, shape or form, socialist. One is just somewhat more democratic and a little more equitable about taxes and medical care.

To me, the choice is pretty self-evident, but I’m not an American, so I don’t see things as Americans do. Maybe my perception of the lesser of two evils isn’t matched by yours.

Here are some links to information about the differences between Canadian and American elections:
Canada.com (2008 piece)
Helium.com (2009 piece)
Cracked.com (comedic piece)

And here are some interesting comparisons of Canadian and American demographics: unitednorthamerica.org. Note that this is the site of a group, “dedicated to the democratic unification of Canada and the United States of America into one nation, under the protections, freedoms and privileges of the United States Constitution.” I don’t support that sentiment, but would consider bring the US states in as provinces under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Then we could really teach Americans about socialism.
* There is no one definition of socialism that fits all ideologies and the term is used for everything from Marxism to medicare. But in fairness, Canadians misunderstand the term less than Americans are we are less prone to use it to describe anything we don’t agree with or comprehend. Americans often call those they don’t like “liberals,” as if that was also an insult (the harridan Ann Coulter infamously wrote, “Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do. They don’t have the energy. If they had that much energy, they’d have indoor plumbing by now.”). Outside the USA, or at least outside of Coulter’s delusional tea-party-pea-brained politics, being a “liberal” means being a centrist, not a left-winger.

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  1. Allan H


    Part of why I am impressed with your blog is your insight and wisdom.

    You almost have your assessment of the American Presidential election correct, except for two points.

    The language and tone of the rabid “conservatives” has as its role model the abuse and disingenuous words used by an addict such as an alcoholic or spouse abuser to keep their co-dependent associates in line. It has very little to do with reality, truth, or consistency but rather is intended to frustrate and humiliate the co-dependent by saying that everything that the co-dependent does is wrong, even if it is the opposite of what you previously criticized. That constant barrage of criticism, sometimes known as the mother-in-law syndrome, is intended to create the illusion of control and has little or nothing to do with the complaint or problem.

    Note that many if not all of the most vocal critics of Obama are themselves previous addicts such as Glenn Beck (alcoholism), Rush Limbaugh (oxycontin), Dick Morris (sex), Pat Buchanan (gambling), or Sarah Palin (slut). Even their ghost hero, George W. Bush #43, was an alcoholic. And as pointed out by Melody Beattie in “Co-Dependent No More” alcoholics don’t know when they are lying even if they are sober. (“Mission Accomplished.”)

    The tragedy of the Democrats is that they are treating the Republicans with respect and decorum failing to realize how the Republicans are “sucker punching” them. And part of NOT being able to properly react to that criticism is the the Republicans are frequently doing it by wrapping themselves in the false flag of of liberty, the Bible, and motherhood. Those are values are hard to criticize, even though the conservative applications are false and misleading. If “Christians” really wanted a US based upon Biblical values then obviously we need to reinstitute polygamy and slavery.

    The other concept you are missing is their real reason for using the term “socialist” as an epithet.

    Most of the rabid anti-Obama electorate in the US is trying to deny their inherent bigotry and dislike that the US has a Black President. (Obama’s Presidency might be used as proof of Evolution – which 46% of the US voters feel is a lie- and makes them massively insecure that the US could have EVOLVED to the point where we have a Black President.) It is why they have gone to such lengths to try to prove that Obama was NOT born in the US state of Hawaii or that Obama is a Muslim (since being a Muslim is “inherently” anti-American). The use of the term “socialist” has nothing to do with the concepts that Obama is trying to promote such as the use of group resources to provide roads and schools and utilities and medical care for the total and optimum benefit of all members of society. Instead they have co-opted the word “socialist” as a substitute for the “N-word” which is really what they are saying if you listen to the emotion as to their use.

    Being a “conservative” in the US truly is a measure of a warped mental state having little or nothing to do with politics but rather a benchmark for a mental condition known as Fecalis Mentalis.

    Fortunately, when Obamacare goes into effect, such pre-existing medical conditions will also be covered.


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