Elections – Are Canada and the USA Any Different, Really ?

A story borrowed from Trapper John at dailyKos.

“Mouseland –  by Trapper John
Sun May 23rd, 2004 at 03:19:30 EDT

Well, this is a site dedicated to politics and elections. No rule that the elections discussed have to be American . . .

Tomorrow morning, Canadian PM Paul Martin will ask the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and will call a June 28 general election.

And it’s gonna be a fun ride. Polling shows that this is on track to be the first election with any real drama in a decade — after over ten years of blandly effective Liberal government, the gradual erosion of Medicare and scores of small scandals are driving Canadians to look beyond the party that they have entrusted with supermajorities since the early ’90s.

The “new” Conservative Party, which arose just a few months ago from the merged ashes of the tired old Progressive Conservatives and the Texas-style crazy rightists of the Reform/CRAP/Canadian Alliance, appears to finally be presenting something of a coherent right-wing alternative to the Grits’ third-way triangulation. The Bloc Quebecois has righted course after a couple of rudderless years, and leads in Quebec polling.

And Jack Layton, the new leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), has pulled Canada’s social democratic/labour party out of a death spiral and seems poised to return the party to its proud position as a vital, fighting voice on the left — one that actually has enough seats in Parliament to make a difference. I’ll be blogging more about the ebb and flow of the campaign in the weeks to come, but my main goal in writing this post was to talk a little about the NDP. I’m a partisan Democrat, one who was very much angry with Nader in 2000, and one who is pretty wary of Green Party efforts. It’s not because I’m not on the left — it’s because I can’t see a successful left party being created in this country without essentially handing the GOP the keys to government for the duration.

But man, if there was a way to have a social democratic party without guaranteeing theocracy, I’d be all for it, because, well . . . let’s face it — the Democratic Party has not always been a real force for social justice. It’s the best thing we’ve got, but that’s all it is. And that’s why I love living vicariously through the NDP. The NDP isn’t perfect — there are a number of positions it’s taken that seem a bit fluffy-headed to me. And God knows that they’ve often been far less than astute in a political sense, especially while in government. (The Bob Rae government in Ontario during the early ’90s wrote the book on how to make your party look completely incompetent.) But the fact is that they’re a party truly dedicated to social justice that has a base of around 10% of Canadians, and they always have a voice in Parliament. Sometimes they actually win provincial elections.

We have nothing like them in the US, and we probably never will. (Why? That’s a question for a whole series of long posts written by political scientists far more savvy than I.) What I’m trying to say, I guess, is this: growing up in Buffalo, following Canadian politics, the idea that a really leftist party could be a player in politics was inspiring. And I’ll be rooting for the NDP over the next couple months.

Because how can a lefty not love a party founded by Tommy Douglas — a prairie populist who loved to tell a parable called “Mouseland” — a parable that for me, really sums up what politics is all about: It’s the story of a place called Mouseland.

Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do. They even had a parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me.

And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats. Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for the last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider then we are.

Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws — that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice.

One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds — so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort. All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder.

And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided that something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that’s Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouse holes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouse holes.” And they did. And the square mouse holes were twice as big as the round mouse holes, and now the cat could get both paws in. And life was tougher then ever. And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black one’s in again.

Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?”

“OH,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail. But I want to remind you: That you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

Go get ’em, mice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *