Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good Omens For Barack Obama

Early voting is taken fairly seriously in the states and the results that have come in are pretty favourable for the Democrat. While party registration isn't a perfect predictor of voting intention, it is a decent facsimile. While some registered Democrats will vote Republican, it is a two way street. Here's some data from two key swing states.

In North Carolina, 771,549 registered Democrats had voted early compared with only 369,109 Republicans. In other words Democrats are out puling republicans two to one in formerly red North Carolina. While the state does have more registered Democrats than Republicans the ratio should be just under 3:2 for the Dems not over 2:1. North Carolina does a great job of keeping their records up to date and you can follow it all here.

In Florida, the state makes it a little harder total votes by registration so I just chose a county at somewhat random for a spot check. Alachua county is dominated by the city of Gainesville which is itself dominated by the University of Florida. If Obama is to win on election night, he needs younger voters, particularly university voters, to vote in numbers. That appears to be happening at the home of Gatorade. In a county Kerry won by a margin of about 4:3(62,504 to 47,762), Democrats have outvoted Republicans by a margin of about 7:2 (16,984 to 4,804).

There are two big problems for McCain in these numbers. First, even if McCain is able to make up ground in the last week, 23% of North Carolinians have already voted and can't change their minds. While the number is lower in Florida (only about 15%) it still represents a major challenge. Second, on election day Barack Obama is going to have fewer votes that he has to pull with his massive ground organization. In Alachua county for instance, he already has about a quarter of John Kerry's votes from 2004. In North Carolina, over a quarter of registered Democrats have already voted which represents an astouding 50% of Kerry's 2004 total. McCain by contrast, has a lot of work to do. In Alachua, Republicans only account for 10% of Bush's total in 2004. In North Carolina, less than a fifth of Republicans have voted representing a similar amount of George W. Bush's 2004 vote. This represents a lot more work for McCain's smaller ground team.

McCain can only hope that independents are breaking overwhelmingly for him in both these cases, otherwise, he's in big trouble. Independents are, however, a small chunk of the votes already cast (roughly 15% in Alachua and 17% in North Carolina).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ukraine Bailout

You know that the world is really screwed up when a major IMF bailout seems to come out of nowhere. I mean I heard about problems in Eastern Europe so I guess I shouldn't be totally surprised. Somehow I don't think this will be the last bailout the IMF makes before this thing is set and done.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ideas to Fix the Liberal Party of Canada

Before I start, I encourage any Liberal who cares about the future of this party to read the Calgary Grit. I usually agree with Dan and today is no exception. Now, some ideas of my own to add to the list. Some of these are simple and no brainers, some of these are things that may not be perfectly thought out but I feel we need to be going in that general direction.

Get Volunteers to Sign Membership Forms: A lot of what's wrong with the Liberal Party is that we don't do the little things right. This is one of them. I know that there are hundreds or maybe thousands of people who helped out Liberal campaigns across the country this fall that are not members of the Liberal Party. Why? Well, in a lot of cases, nobody bothered to ask. This must change. These people are the people we need to expand our party membership and our fundraising base. Let's mandate that within six weeks of each election the riding association must hold an open meeting where it tries to sign up new members. Easy, cheap and a great way to make sure people who get involved during elections, stay involved in between elections.

Stop Asking for Money for No Apparent Reason: I don't know about you, but I've stopped opening the e-mails I get from central party. Why? I know what they say without opening them. Here's a synopsis of the e-mail: "Stephen Harper is evil. Look what he's doing now. The Liberal Party is the only party that can . Please go to liberal.ca to donate today." I like the idea of consistently going to the well for small amounts instead of going to the well for a large amount one time. However, if you make your pitch all the time, people are going to just tune you out.

Stop Trying to Con Your Members Into Giving Money: This admittedly only happened once but it offended me to no end. I get an e-mail (I bothered to open this one) saying that I had just committed on the phone to donate to the party and this is just an e-mail following up. Well, I had done no such thing. I know I did no such thing because this was in the middle of the election and I hadn't been home and awake for more than a couple of hours late at night for weeks because I was working on the campaign. Don't lie to your members. If you want money, give me a good reason to donate.

Find Our Howard Dean: If Barack Obama wins this election, a lot of the credit will belong to the chairman of the DNC, former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean. Dean is responsible for transforming the Democratic party from a regional, directionless, poor party into the national, focused, fundraising machine it is today. Dean was the first Democrat to fundraise effectively over the internet. When we elect a new leader of the Liberal Party, we will also be electing a new President of the Liberal Party. If we are to succeed, we need a President that will be able to bring the big red machine into the twenty-first century. My suggestion for the job? Paul Martin. Ok, stop laughing for a minute and think about it. The next President of the LPC will have two jobs: make us competitive in the fundraising department and rebuild moribund riding associations. I can't think of a better person for this job than Paul Martin. Martin is as good a fundraiser as this party is going to find. He knows everyone in the party and has the respect of most of them. I understand that he couldn't turn us into a grassroots, Dean/Obama style, fundraising machine during his tenure as leader. I also understand that if he was solely focused on that task, he might have more success. Martin also knows something about building riding associations. Martin was a master at building up riding associations when he was trying to become leader. He took over almost every riding association in the country. If he can take them over, he can build them up. We need someone with his gravitas to make this work. That's why Gov. Dean has been so successful. He has the name recognition and the respect of the people in the party. It doesn't have to be Martin. In fact, I doubt he'd want the job. But it should be someone with a big name, who understands grassroots politics.

Fight Everywhere: I am a firm believer in the Liberal 308 campaign that has begun. If we are to form government again, it will only be if we are competitive in every part of this country. We have conceded to many races to the Tories, NDP and Bloc. Hell, we even conceded a race to the Greens this time around. That is not acceptable. We have to build support for our party everywhere by engaging with our grassroots everywhere. It will not be an easy process, but it is doable.

We Are Not Just Another Left Wing Party: One of the things that really offends me is when Liberals make the argument that the majority of the country voted for progressive candidates. If we portray ourselves as fundamentally no different from the NDP, Greens or Bloc, why should Canadians see a difference on election day? We are not a left wing party. We are a centrist party. In fact, the only centrist party this country has. We get elected when we appeal to all Canadians, not just self-identified progressives. We are not like the NDP and Greens a party of ideology. We are simply not like the Bloc. We couldn't be less like the Bloc. We fundamentally disagree with all of these parties over core principles and ideas. Yes, we disagree with the Conservatives as well. Our disagreement with the Tories, however, should not be our defining characteristic. We are the party of small business as much as we are the party of the poor. We are the party of fiscal responsibility as much as we are the party of healthcare and childcare. It is this unification of ideals, free from restrictive ideology, that has made us so successful in the past. We must embrace that legacy if we are to succeed in the future.

We Are Not the Natural Governing Party: I want to start a swear jar for every time a Liberal claims we are the natural governing party. There is no such thing as a natural governing party. We are a centrist party. This means that a plurality of Canadians tend to agree with us philosophically. However, that does not mean we are entitled to a single vote. Everytime we tell Canadians that we are the natural governing party, we become less likely to ever govern again. We will not fix this party, unless we understand that we're never going to get elected by just hoping Canadians come back to us. We came back to power in 1993 because we had a clear and pragmatic vision for this country that Canadians could support not because it was inevitable.

I really hope that we can have a genuine discussion about renewal amid the intra-partisan bickering of a leadership race. We have a lot of work to do and we need to get started.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Thousand Times No

There are many out there right now who think that the real problem with the Liberal Party is the method by which we choose our leader. The argument goes that it was the backroom deals on the convention floor that gave our party Stephane Dion and therefore if we eliminate convention floor, all will be right with the world. What most of these people advocate for is a one-member-one vote system. While this may sound lovely, it is in fact a recipe for disaster. The problem with one-member-one-vote systems is that they allow the candidate who can sign up a bunch of instant members the chance to win without any support from the people in the party who actually do the heavy lifting and know something about running a political party. This is, in large measure, how John Tory became the leader of the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario. You think we've got leadership issues. The system by which we elect a leader is transparent and effective. Members vote for the leadership candidate of their choice and then for the delegate candidates that they feel are most qualified to represent them at the convention. These delegates are bound to vote as they had promised on the first ballot. After that, they are free to make a decision as to who they should support. The rest of the delegates are all the candidates from the last election plus all the presidents of the local riding associations plus a few other party higher ups (senators, former cabinet ministers, premiers, executive members etc.). These people, the people who will be doing a large share (although there are plenty of hardworking Liberals who don't go to conventions) of the heavy lifting come election time, choose who will become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. We don't just hand the crown to the person who signs up a ton of members in one riding. The system ensures that our party will elect a leader that the entire party from coast to coast to coast is comfortable with and that has the support of real Liberals not just instant Liberals.

This system is similar to the system employed in the United States (which was praised by many Canadian pundits for generating excitement about politics just a few months ago) except that our system eliminates the stupid "first in the nation primary" BS by having all of the delegate selection meetings over one weekend. We also do the entire selection process over one weekend unike most states which vote based on candidate choice and then have a state-wide convention to pick the delegates.

Side Note: Anyone thought about who the ex-officio candidate delegate for Central Nova will be? Will they be short a delegate relative to the rest of the country? Will they go back to the 2006 candidate? Or will we give the spot to the person who Liberals in Central Nova were told to vote for in the last election, Elizabeth May? Just asking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Anyone Understand This

I mean I know the polls are looking good for Obama these days, but Clinton in Omaha? Maybe they think one of the electoral districts is up for grabs. Nebraska does split its electoral votes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It Begins...

M. Dion has announced what has become inevitable over the last week, he will resign as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. I look forward to hearing from the field of candidates which will emerge over the next weeks and months. I will be looking for a candidate to tell me why she/he wants to be Prime Minister. What does he/she want to do as Prime Minister? In particular, I want to hear from a leader who will focus on the challenges which face Canada today and will face Canada in the future. I want to hear about how Canada can change its economy in the face of the new globalized economy. I want to hear how we are going to confront the impending demographic challenges which threaten to overwhelm our public health care system and other social welfare programs. I want to hear about how we are going to fix our immigration system to make it fairer and more effective. Finally, I still want to hear about how we are going to confront the climate crisis, only this time in a way that Canadians can support. The candidate who does this will have my support. Let the delightful dismemberment of the Liberal hopescape begin!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cracks in EU's Green Wall

Apparently Canadians aren't the only ones who think an economic recession is a good time to implement a massive climate change plan. Members of the European Union are now objecting to making this kind of move at this time.

Post Mortem

Literally, post mortem means after death and that is a somewhat accurate description today. There are few bright spots today for Liberals. I can only think of four pick-ups if you don't count seats reclaimed after floor-crossing. We are in the wilderness folks. To add insult to injury, Jack Layton is still my member of parliament. St├ęphane Dion ran a disastrous campaign. He placed a bad policy as the central plank of our platform. It was the wrong policy at the wrong time. That said, I beg my fellow Liberals to spare us the fratricidal (and sororicidal) bloodletting of a third leadership race in six years.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Toronto-Danforth Votes NDP Out

The people of Toronto-Danforth showed their displeasure with their absentee MP tonight. After Jack backed out of a debate scheduled to try to accommodate Layton's schedule, the attendees of the debate blocked an attempt to have Peter Tabuns stand in for his comrade. City-TV has the video. Jack Layton apparently has forgotten that in Toronto-Danforth, local matters.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

EU Envy

There are few things I hate more than being told how great the European Union is. Doug Saunders is at it in the Saturday Globe. Saunders is using the prism of the EU-Canada trade talks to discuss the issues in dealing with Canada because of our loose federalism. Saunders marvels at the ease that Europe, a collection of 27 independent states, has in negotiating treaties. He ignores the reason for this freedom: lack of democracy. The European Union remains a fundamentally undemocratic institution. Controlled in large measure by an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels (led by President Barroso) and the heads of government of the 27 member states (currently led by President Sarkozy), the European Commission and European Council, as they are known, wield an enormous amount of power. There is also a political consensus among the major parties of the majority of EU states that European integration is both positive and essential. The irony is that fewer and fewer Europeans actually want the integration their political masters are pushing. The first round of European constitution meetings collapsed because, well, people were allowed to vote on it. The second round collapsed, in spite of efforts to prevent people from voting on it, because the Irish government couldn't get around their constitution and had to let the people vote on it. If Presidents Barroso and Sarkozy had to sell this to the electorate of certain member states, it would undoubtedly fail. It is only because the EU is so insulated from its people that it can negotiate with such impugnity. While the EU is probably a benevolent dictator most of the time, it is a dictator nonetheless. The toothless European Parliament has not changed this fact. If Mr. Saunders et al. want Canada to be more like the EU, they should realize that the cost is democracy.

Side Note: I actually really hope these talks succeed. While I don't want to be like the EU, I would like to have a more active trading relationship with our friends across the pond. In a related story the free trade conspiracy theorists had a major hole blasted through their water fear-mongering today.
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