08.23.2016 12:00 AM

This week’s column: my new partisan affiliation

BOSTON – I am a Democrat.

Philosophically, ideologically, emotionally: the political party I belong to, in my head and my heart, is the Democratic Party of the United States. And if I still lived Stateside, that’s the party I would be voting for, and the party I would be working for, 24/7. (Full disclosure: my wife and I are, in fact, volunteering on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign this Summer and Fall in both Maine and New York.)

This isn’t to say, however, that I’m not still a Liberal Party supporter, or that I don’t think the Conservative Party or the New Democratic Party often have good ideas and good people. Notwithstanding their quirks and peccadilloes, I like Canadian partisans a lot. They’re passionate, intelligent, motivated folks – whether they be Grit, Tory or Dipper. They make a difference.

But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the three main Canadian political parties aren’t all that different. They possess distinctions without differences. Case in point: the 2015 Canadian election campaign – when the New Democrats (with balanced budgets and billion-dollar budgets for defence) moved Right, the Liberals (with deficit spending and pulling out of the ISIS fight) moved Left, and the Conservatives (with their willingness to boot out any candidate who dared raise the topics of abortion or gay marriage) moved away from what they had once been.  

In 2015, and before, you needed a magnifying glass to detect dissimilarities between the Canadian political parties. The 2015 campaign was about personalities, not policy, and Justin Trudeau won because he had a nicer personality than the other two guys.

Not so here in the U.S. Here, there is true political clarity. Here, the contrasts are real and readily-seen. Here, there is (and usually is) a clear choice between two starkly-opposed political polarities.

Up in Canada, all of the Canadian political parties often become indistinguishable when they win the privilege of power. In government, they really aren’t all that different. Bob Rae’s New Democrats (appropriately) imposed austerity measures when they ran things in Ontario, Rachel Notley’s NDP enthusiastically (appropriately) supports pipelines and the Oil Patch, and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (appropriately) spent like drunken sailors in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 global recession. And Justin Trudeau’s Liberals (belatedly, but correctly) decided they’d been wrong about ISIS, and have committed Canada to something Harper never, ever did – troops on the ground, in harm’s way.

But here in the U.S.? The Democrats and the Republicans approach governing very differently. The former believe government can be a force for good, and the latter simply don’t. The aforementioned 2008-2009 global recession came about precisely because Republicans eliminated government’s ability to regulate Wall Street’s excesses. Democrats, meanwhile, proudly used government power and spending to clean up the GOP’s mess.

In the U.S., they don’t pussyfoot around with Orwellian Newspeak, like Canadians do on the issue of abortion. Up in Canada, we prattle on about “choice” and play semantic games, calling one side “pro-life” and the other “pro-choice,” so that they almost sound like they believe in the same thing. South of the border, the issue is “abortion,” and you are either for it (like the Democrats always are) or you are against it (like the Republicans always are). I’m for it. Abortion should be safe, rare and legal.

In the U.S., Democrats don’t like capital punishment, and the Republicans do. But Democrats – like me – believe that sometimes the state is entitled to apply the ultimate penalty. When there is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – in the case of Paul Bernardo, say, who tortured and raped and murdered children on film – Democrats reluctantly accept that capital punishment can and should be applied. I do, too.

In the U.S., Democrats don’t particularly like war, while Republicans think it is the solution to every problem. But, unlike in Canada – where our defence capacity has been underfunded and underwhelming for generations, through successive governments of all stripes, and where we depend on other nations to maintain our national defence – Democrats are unafraid to use military might when diplomacy fails.  

Thus, Hillary Clinton pushed for the assassination of Osama bin Laden, Bill Clinton led the military effort to stop the Bosnian genocide, and Barack Obama has raised military spending to historic highs – comparatively higher than it was during Ronald Reagan’s Cold War buildup, in fact. Under Obama, for example, Obama’s “surge” of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was double what it was under George W. Bush. Democrats aren’t wimps.

It’s worth noting, at his point, that most Canadians mostly agree with the Democratic position on all of the stuff above. An Ipsos poll showed in February that six in ten Canadian favour abortion “in any circumstances.” For years, in poll after poll, an equivalent number of Canadians – about two-thirds – support the death penalty. And various surveys over the past decade show slightly fewer Canadians support more or stable defence spending – about half. 

But, when it comes to taking on the likes of ISIS, as many as three in four Canadians opposed Trudeau’s promise to withdraw from the anti-ISIS bombing mission. And nearly as many want to see more resources devoted to the anti-ISIS fight.

See? I may be Democrat, but the majority of Canadians are, too. 

Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats, take note.  



  1. PJH says:

    Democrats don’t particularly don’t like war, but they will go to war if necessary if it fills a need…..like assisting in the takedown of the Gaddafi regime when the mighty US petrodollar was threatened by Gaddafi’ gold dinar……Under the guise of protecting Libyan civilians, the US and NATO were able to take out Gaddafi…..and protect the almighty petrodollar. As a result, what we have now in Libya is a virtual failed state with an ongoing civil war and an increasing presence of ISIS. Gaddafi was no prize….but by most African standards, Libya under his rule was stable and fairly prosperous. The war on Gaddafi also opened the floodgates of N.African & Sub-Saharan refugees to Europe, causing hundreds of deaths from drowning on the Mediterranean, which still continue. All because an American President and his Secretary of State meddled in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. I was appalled by Hillary Clinton’s statement: “We came, we saw, he died” , followed by a cackle…..but I guess she was celebrating a job well done. No, Democrats aren’t wimps, but they can sow seeds of discord every bit as good as their Republican counterparts.

  2. Manuel says:

    Nice to see that in print. Drove me nuts last year to read various comments across the web suggesting the Conservatives were as far right as the Republicans. I doubt they’re even right of the Democrats on 95% of the issues. Years ago it was common knowledge that Canada’s political parties were left of the US’s. What happened since then? Spin and vitriol on the Internet perhaps?

    • Luke says:

      Probably all the skeletons in the Reform closet kept us lefties very worried for a long time. I think there was justification, but Harper never did go retrograde on gay rights or abortion and various other social policy issues, and for that I am grateful. He and his crew were right pricks about all that crap they shoved into the omnibus bills on the topics of waterways and various other environmental issues, and their seemingly random (or perhaps ill-intentioned) closure and defunding of various scientific institutes was enough to drive a person crazy, as was the Orwellian muzzling of government scientists, and meddling with the census. Overall though, my own view is that going very far right, particularly on social issues, seems to be untenable if a party wishes to retain power in this country. Perhaps I will be proved wrong in the future.

      So indeed, Republicans win the right wing contest.

  3. Jeff says:

    I find it kind of weird someone gets do hung up in the politics of another country, especially when you aren’t even a voter, but all power to ya Warren!

  4. Aongasha says:

    Quite frankly I couldn’t vote for either candidate in the US. While Hillary might be a smidgin better than Trump, Rex Murphy was not wrong in his assessment.
    Worst of all though is the Canadian media, which lays down for her like a rug. (see Twitter too). They don’t even do an adequate job of covering in a fair and balanced manner the issues in this country, and now spend the majority of their time, campaiging for the Dems in the US. Strange press corps for sure.

  5. Etienne says:

    Count me as baited and unsurprised. While typing in the url for this website, I wondered “will today be the day he reveals his new party affiliation?”. Now I know. And wonder, really, what else could it have been?

  6. Michael Teper says:

    “But whoever has committed murder, must die. There is, in this case, no juridical substitute or surrogate, that can be given or taken for the satisfaction of justice. There is no likeness or proportion between life, however painful, and death; and therefore there is no equality between the crime of murder and the retaliation of it but what is judicially accomplished by the execution of the criminal. His death, however, must be kept free from all maltreatment that would make the humanity suffering in his person loathsome or abominable. Even if a civil society resolved to dissolve itself with the consent of all its members–as might be supposed in the case of a people inhabiting an island resolving to separate and scatter themselves throughout the whole world–the last murderer lying in prison ought to be executed before the resolution was carried out. This ought to be done in order that every one may realize the desert of his deeds, and that blood-guiltiness may not remain upon the people; for otherwise they might all be regarded as participators in the murder as a public violation of justice.”

    — Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, Part II, The Science of Right.

  7. Darren H says:

    Your candidate better get her shit together then and not rely on Trump to blow it. Trump made her and Obama look bad in Louisiana this week by showing up. Even the Democrat Governor was grateful. BTW Notley does not enthusiastically support the oilpatch here in Alberta. The Oil Companies we deal with are taking a wait and see attitude on major projects ‘to see how things look’ in late 2018/early 2019. You do the math.

    • smelter rat says:

      That has more to do with the price of oil than anything Notley et al are doing.

      • Darren H says:

        No it doesn’t. They don’t look at the price of oil as it stands today as the project will not start to produce for two to three years down the road. What matters is the economic climate for investment in these major projects, and right now we have a government that is making it too uneconomical with jacking up taxes in a downturn. Dithering on pipelines is not helping either.

        Investment money is fleeing to Africa and Asia where environmental regulations are far less restrictive than Canada. If we are interested in producing oil responsibly, and I believe we all are, we need to keep that production in countries that are investing in technologies to reduce pollution and “greenhouse gases”.

        • doconnor says:

          It’s hard to believe that something that would reduce profit by maybe 5% or 10% would be more impactful then something that could increase revenue by 300% or decrease it by 2/3s.

  8. Peter says:

    World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Bay of Pigs, Libya and numerous “interventions”. All begun under Democratic administrations. The Democrats were also the party that resisted abolition and the repeal of Jim Crow.

    But you are right that the U.S. is more divided ideologically and more given to aggressive, overheated rhetoric. Christopher Hitchens once remarked that an outsider listening to Congressional debates could be forgiven for thinking they were just a couple of speeches away from another civil war. They put a premium on being true to their revolutionary founding principles while we make getting along our priority.

    Also, they seem very attracted to conspiracy theories, as fans of endless airport thrillers know. Both sides are prone to imagining plots and subterfuges in high places to undermine their constitution or suck out precious bodily fluids or whatever. Can anyone imagine a bestseller based on rogue elements of our Privy Council Office conspiring with Bombardier executives to subvert the B.N.A. Act or Charter of Rights?

  9. James Smith says:

    As a member of Democrats Abroad since 2004; welcome! May I suggest that both Maine & New York may not need that much help. I plan to make my way to Ohio to help as it’s likely going to be more of contest & ain’t that far from Southern Ontario.

  10. BillBC says:

    I agree with pretty much every word of this. And I’m a Conservative, which really proves your point….

  11. Vancouverois says:

    Called it!

  12. Gord says:

    Wasn’t Glass-Steagall repealed on Bill’s watch? I would argue that one action, more than any other, was what led to the 2008 meltdown. I’ll grant you the repeal was passed by a Republican congress, but Bill signed it.

  13. godot10 says:

    I disagree with Warren. There is only one party in the United States. The Deep State Party. And they serve up this faux theatre of left and right, pro-life and anti-abortion, etc. to distract the public from the permanent government of the unelected Deep State (Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, the 1%, the plutocrats).

    The neoconservatives that all lined up between George W. Bush are now lining up behind Hillary. Regime change in Iraq was actually a policy of Bill Clinton that he never got around to.

    The United States really isn’t a democracy anymore.

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Glad I can disagree vehemently on two points: first, yes, Republicans moved heaven and earth to deregulate Wall Street, and largely defang Dodd-Frank, but that was nothing compared to the bought and paid for Clinton Administration who deliberately did Wall Street’s bidding on deregulation and everything else.

    As for abortion, it must be safe and legal. As soon as we use the adjective rare, that implies external control over a woman’s right to choose. (I’m not advocating for partial-birth abortion here.)

  15. Tim Sullivan says:

    We were getting pretty bad government under the Harper Conservatives, so if that is a personality issue, fine. I see it more as policy.

    Demonizing environmentalists, rejecting climate science and sabotaging international conferences on climate, sinking the water treaty are not personality issues.

    The long form census was absolutely a policy issue with potentially long-term effects. Unless you are willing to call Harper, Alexander and Leitch racists, that hate-filled, biased snitch line was all policy. It was also pretty close to racism.

    Attacks on public servants, including diplomats, regulators, scientists, was policy. The Fair Elections Act was policy.

    It might have amounted to bad judgment, but policy distinguished the very poor government we received under Mr. Harper.

  16. Maps Onburt says:

    Not sure if this will get published or not… seems like I was blacklisted for some reason I don’t know. Anyway, not surprised you’d be voting Democrat. I do agree that on some issues they are to the right of the Liberals (and potentially even the Conservatives) but I could never be comfortable with their ease of bending the rules to suit their own purposes. Obama’s executive orders, Hillary’s selling access for donations, LBJ’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin to get the US into the war with Vietnam, and I won’t even go into Clinton’s excesses. I could have voted for JFK… There is no way in hell I could have EVER voted for LBJ. He sent over half a million American troops to die in a war he had absolutely no intention of winning and PERSONALLY went to extreme ends to make sure they didn’t (they could have shut down the supply routes into Vietnam in a heartbeat but he never did. They only infrequently bombed the bridges that could have cut the supply routes, and hundreds of more examples if you read any military history book on the subject). It always amazes me that the Democrats get all the credit from the Blacks when it was the Democrats who supported slavery and even til recent times enforced segregation. Carter didn’t ever lie to my knowledge but he was until Obama, the single worst president the US ever had.

    That said, both parties down there have their share of difficulties. The Dem’s with their fascination with power at all costs (your Canadian Liberal friends are in good company here) and the Republican’s with their crazy religious right. Personally, I’m glad I’m a Canadian and don’t have to vote for either one of them.

    • doconnor says:

      When you get a ban here your ip address gets banned, but you can post with a different IP address. It can make things unpredictable.

      More American Servicemen died in Vietnam under Nixon then user Johnson and Nixon also worked to prevent piece. Also half a million troops went to Vietnam. Only a fraction died.

      What makes Obama’s relatively unremarkable Presidency the “worst”?

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      What makes Obama such a bad president?

      What made Carter such a bad president?

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