The Daily Mader – May 3, 2011

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WELL THAT HAPPENED: Some night for the Tories. Some night for Canada! I’m trying not to read anything into the fact that all this excitement happened in the first federal election that I wasn’t allowed to vote in. So what does it all mean?

THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING: The story of the night is – well, it’s that there are so many stories of the night. Let’s start with the Grits. In an ironic way, the Liberal Party stands a better chance of rebuilding now than they would have had the Tories failed to win a majority. If NDP + Liberal > Conservative, the resulting contradictory pressures – from the left, to join with Jack and form a government; from the right, to join with Harper and stop Jack – would have torn the party apart. Those same tensions are surely to blame for the decimation the party received at the polls. Now, the rump can take time to decide whether and how to regroup. Just because they can, though, doesn’t mean they will; and depending on when and how the per-vote subsidy is scrapped, the party might not be able to rebuild even if it wants to.

THE NEW MIDDLE?: As my progressive friends pointed out endlessly last night, the Tories “only” managed 40% of the vote, which means a majority of Canadians voted for somebody else. (The same was true of Chretien, of course. And Trudeau. And… Actually, since the war, only Mulroney and Diefenbaker have won more than 50% of the popular vote.) Be that as it may, the Tories have a pretty good shot at replacing the Liberals as Canada’s natural governing party. For one thing, the West, as Andrew Coyne noted on CBC last night, is now in. Firmly in. They might choose to leave again — once a maverick, always a maverick — but for now I think we can agree that the west is pretty solidly blue. And with a Tory majority — and without a Liberal party to cater to their every whim — the central Canadian establishment’s allegiance will shift, pretty quickly, to the Tory camp. In fact you could say that’s what the past ten years of Conservative politics, and the past five years of Conservative government, have been all about: toning down the party’s western eccentricities and getting central Canadians comfortable with this whole ‘Conservative’ thing. So: solid west + amenable Ontario + new seat distributions + end to per-vote subsidy = lasting Tory majority. Well, almost. There’s one other, volatile ingredient.

VIVE JACK LAYTON LIBRE: Federalists of all stripes were congratulating the NDP for destroying the Bloc. Some were even declaring an end to the sovereigntist movement. Wrong, and wrong. The NDP didn’t out-campaign the Bloc in Quebec. Let’s be honest: the NDP hardly campaigned in Quebec at all. Nor did they out-ground-game the Bloc. So it’s not really fair to credit the NDP, as a political organization, with the defeat of the Bloc, as a political organization – even though NDP candidates beat Bloc candidates across the province. No, the NDP won in Quebec because, by all accounts, Bloc voters voted NDP. Now I suppose it’s possible that the voting majority of an entire province went to bed one night committed soft-sovereigntists, and woke up the next morning committed federalists in search of a federal party that best represented the rest of their social-democratic views. Possible – but likely? Hardly. Isn’t it more likely that the very same people who voted Bloc last election and NDP this election are… still soft sovereigntists? Surely. And it’s just as likely that they voted NDP not simply because the NDP offered them a social-democratic federal alternative, but also because the NDP offered them… a soft sovereigntist federal alternative. In short: the NDP didn’t defeat the Bloc in Quebec. The NDP simply co-opted the Bloc vote.

TWO SOLITUDES: Without a doubt the political map has been re-drawn. But the new shades and borders make a renewed unity crisis more, not less, likely. More than half of Jack’s new NDP caucus is from Quebec; the party holds nearly 80% of Quebec seats. The governing party holds less than 1%. In the Rest Of Canada, meanwhile, the governing party holds roughly 70% of seats, compared to less than 20% for the NDP. There are a lot of dynamics that will determine how that tension plays out. The NDP has room for growth – particularly in the maritime provinces, which are the last bastion of Liberal support, and in the cities. But the NDP’s growth in the ROC may come to be inversely related with its fortunes in Quebec. As Gilles Duceppe warned last night, the NDP, having won Quebec’s votes, must now cater to Quebec’s demands. And a party institutionally required to pander to Quebec will have a tough time growing its base in the rest of a Canada growing increasingly impatient with special status. On the other hand, a Tory government firmly entrenched in Ontario and the West will have to tread carefully if it wants to avoid stoking Quebecois feelings of resentment. Fat chance. Referendum by the end of the decade.

SLOW NEWS WEEKEND: So Bin Laden is dead. Long-time readers know that I am second to none in my neo-conservative support for the war on terror, so please, please save me the machismo when I say that I won’t celebrate the death even of a piece of garbage like him. Harper’s “sober satisfaction” is the most appropriate response I’ve heard. At the same time, I think I understand the cheering throngs in Washington and New York. This is a nation desperate for good news. This is a nation desperate for anything to counter the general, creeping, inexorable feeling of decline. An apparently perfectly executed SpecOps raid deep inside Pakistani territory, like something out of Tom Clancy, allows Americans to feel like they’re still top dog. And of course it provides a nice book-end to the last Tom Clancy-esque moment in American history, ten years ago this September. But of course this isn’t the end of the war on terror, and it’s silly and irresponsible to say so. That’s not because, as a war-monger, I want an excuse to go invade other countries. It’s because this war has never been winnable by military means alone. I stand by what I wrote eight years ago: this is a struggle for human rights and democracy and against terrorism and tyranny. In such a struggle military might has its place; but ultimate victory depends on a renaissance among those who would destroy us, and an acceptance, on their part, of the principle of peaceful coexistance. On balance I think Bin Laden’s death moves us closer towards that point, just as I continue to think that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did the same. But it’s certainly debatable, and in any case we’re a long, long way from the ultimate goal. So: sober satisfaction; quiet resolve.

HATERS GONNA HATE: Lastly, the Royal Wedding. It was marvelous. They’re a terrific couple; it was meaningful, as a renewal of vows between nation and crown; and all the naysayers are perfectly welcome to go suck an egg. God bless them both; God bless us all.