Why the U.S. is at a Crossroads, but Canada isn’t - The Intrepid

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why the U.S. is at a Crossroads, but Canada isn’t

Both the U.S. Presidential and Canadian Federal Elections are referendums on the ruling party, but while the U.S. is at a crossroads, Canada is just in flux. Part of the different is institutional. In the U.S., there is a Presidential Election every four years. In Canada, despite attempts by the Conservative Party to set fixed dates, elections are sporadic. The Harper government is responsible for breaking their promise to hold fix election dates. Because elections occur sporadically with little preparation, at least in comparison to the endless campaigning in U.S. elections, elections in Canada do not have the same weight as their U.S. counterparts.

In the U.S., once a President is elected they stay in office for 4 years. They might face impeachment, but only Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were ever impeached, and both were acquitted during the trial. Unless they resign like Nixon, die like Harrison, or are assassinated like Kennedy, they hold the office for 4 years. In Canada, a Prime Minister’s term is not guaranteed for any duration of time. When the government falls, the Prime Minister and the reigning party are called to account by people.

Thus, while Americans frequently have symbolic Presidential elections, Canadians tend to have to have elections that signify a trend. This is not say that American Elections cannot set trends or that Canadian elections cannot be symbolic. George H. W. Bush’s election was part of conservative trend in American society, and Jean Chrétien's election constituted a symbolic death for progressive conservatism in Canada. But, the nature of the Presidential System lends itself to symbolic change, while the Westminster System lends itself to incremental change.

The current elections are a perfect example of this. In Canada, Stephen Harper is likely to win a minority government, perhaps with a few more seats than last time. This is part of a trend. While some analysts have attributed the recent success of the Conservative Party to a national shift among electorate towards the right, more likely this success is the result of Liberal Fatigue. Canadians are still somewhat tired of the Liberal Party after its decade of power and while Dion has offered a fresh approach through the Green Shift Plan, Canadians doubt his ability to lead. Stephen Harper is going to win the election, but a Conservative win does not suggest a fundamental change.

Alternatively, the results of the U.S. Presidential Election are going to have a powerful impact, not just on the United States, but on the world. If Barack Obama wins the U.S. Election, it will signify a dramatic transformation in both the foreign and domestic policies of the United States. Obama’s candidacy alone represents a positive change for a country historically gripped by racial tension.

America is at a crossroads. The choice between Obama and McCain is quite stark. Obama represents a new, more liberal outlook, while McCain represents a continuation of the neo-conservative policies of the Bush administration, albeit with a few twists. America’s decision, regardless of what it is, will set American foreign and domestic policy on a certain path for the next 4 years.