Pubdate: Fri, 09 Nov 2012
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2012 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Michael Den Tandt


This is the amazing, intriguing subtext - or maybe it's a dominant 
theme - of Tuesday night's decisive Electoral College victory by 
incumbent and now, more than ever, history-making U.S. President 
Barack Obama: The United States is becoming, well, Canadian.

That will seem like a wild exaggeration to some. But consider.

The campaign itself was as nasty and divisive as always on the 
advertising side, and at street level. But at the presidential level, 
especially, there was courtesy. Romney haters will disagree. But at 
no time in this campaign, certainly not in public, did Romney bare 
his fangs in anything like a Rush Limbaugh-style display of rage. He 
was aggressive but respectful. More to the point, his policy 
positions - during the campaign at least - were centrist. But it was 
too little centrism, too late.

Romney lost by a wide margin in the Electoral College, 303 to 206. 
The popular vote, no surprise, was almost evenly split, with Obama 
winning narrowly. On the face of it, the outcome could have been 
quite different. But if you drill into results in the swing states, 
in particular north eastern rustbelt jurisdictions clustered around 
the Great Lakes, such as Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan 
and Ohio, it's clear that Romney never really had a chance.

These states are populated mainly by white, working class folk who've 
been hit hard by the historic downturn in North American heavy 
manufacturing. They should have been disaffected with Obama and many 
of them were. But not enough. Blue-collar hero Bruce Springsteen, a 
huge Obama fan, seems closer to capturing the new ethos than, say, 
honky-tonk man and GOP favourite Hank Williams Jr.

In Florida, in 2000 the final arbiter, the results were even more 
striking. Romney absolutely needed populous Florida, with its 29 
Electoral College votes, to counter California's 55, always certain 
to go Democrat. He fully expected to win Florida. But in the populous 
counties of the southeast coast - Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach - 
Romney struck out, resoundingly.

Not coincidentally, South Florida has a large Hispanic American 
population. The GOP, with its Tea Party-driven hostility to 
immigration, failed utterly to bring this group onside. Indeed, it 
didn't particularly try. That was a fatal mistake.

This is a historic, demographics-driven shift, captured - ironically 
- - by GOP backer Clint Eastwood in his excellent 2008 film, Gran 
Torino. In the movie, Eastwood plays a salt-of-the-earth white 
Republican of Eisenhower vintage, beset by Asian, Hispanic and black 
neighbours on all sides. His car, the mythical Gran Torino, is a 
metaphor for and homage to the old America - white, blue-collar, 
Christian, conservative, and able to build things that last forever - 
that's disappearing. The movie may as well have been crafted as a 
prelude to this election.

But it's the state-by-state propositions, non-presidential ballot 
items, that truly jump out. In Michigan, voters turned thumbs-down in 
overwhelming numbers to billionaire Matty Moroun's cockeyed scheme to 
stop a new bridge being built between Windsor and Detroit. That may 
not be explicitly a vote for Canada, but it's certainly not 
isolationism or protectionism.

In Maryland, Maine, Washington State and Colorado, meanwhile, 
Canadianness is spreading like a bad rash. The first three 
jurisdictions approved same-sex marriage by plebiscite - the first 
time this has ever happened. The latter two have legalized 
recreational marijuana. These outcomes have national import: As The 
Associated Press's David Crary points out, the U.S. Justice 
Department must now determine how to deal with legalized pot, which 
it still considers illegal, and the Supreme Court will be expected to 
consider new state precedents in future hearings on same-sex marriage.

Ah, I hear you say - but Canada hasn't legalized pot. In fact, the 
Harper government moved in the opposite direction with omnibus crime 
bill C-10, imposing harsh new sentences for growers of as few as six 
plants. That may be so - but as Americans have once again shown, 
popular sentiment leads. The Harper government has gone all Gran 
Torino on crime, because it's one area where it can court social 
conservatives in its base without sparking a fierce backlash among 

But that doesn't make the marijuana measures popular: Indeed C-10 was 
an omnibus bill for that very reason, lumping the good - tougher 
penalties for sex crimes against children - with the dumb. The best 
argument against decriminalization was always the one made by police: 
That easing restrictions here would cause too jarring a disruption at 
the border, given American official aversion to pot. If that aversion 
wanes, the goalposts here move.

For Canadian economic conservatives, this election may be a disappointment.

But for social progressives on both sides of the border it's good 
news - and further evidence that a confident, diverse and tolerant 
Canada has the capacity to lead trends in the North American 
relationship, as well as follow.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom