Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2012
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Michael Den Tandt
Page: A18


This is the intriguing subtext - or maybe 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 U.S. 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, there was
courtesy. Mitt Romney-haters will disagree, but at no time in the
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

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 rust-belt jurisdictions 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 downturn in manufacturing. They should have been
disaffected with Obama and many 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 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, Romney struck out resoundingly. Not
coincidentally, South Florida has a large Hispanic population. The
GOP, with its Tea Party-driven hostility to immigration, failed
utterly to bring this group onside. Indeed, it didn't particularly
try, a fatal mistake.

This is a historic, demographics-driven shift, captured - ironically -
by GOP backer Clint Eastwood in his 2008 film, Grand Torino. In the
movie, Eastwood plays a salt-of-the-earth white Republican of
Eisenhower vintage, beset by Asian, Hispanic and black neighbours. His
car, the mythical Grand 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, Ont., 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, Canadianness is
spreading like a rash. The first three jurisdictions approved same-sex
marriage by plebiscite - the first time this has ever happened. The
latter two 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 Grand
Torino on crime, because it's one area where it can court social
conservatives in its base without sparking a fierce backlash among
progressives. 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 made by police:
easing restrictions here would cause too jarring a disruption at the
border given U.S. aversion to pot. If that aversion wanes, the
goalposts 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: Matt