Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

How not to piss off Canadians

I often complain that Americans don't take enough of an interest in what happens north of the 49th parallel, but this time it seems that my laments have turned around to bite me in the ass. This week, with unmistakably American voices, filmmaker Michael Moore, sex column writer Dan Savage, and current Presidential candiate Ralph Nader have all called upon Canadians not to vote Conservative in tomorrow's election. The response hasn't been what any of them had hoped for; Canadian journalists have been openly hostile toward all three of them, and various Canadian bloggers have speculated about just how many Conservative votes these three Liberal endorsements have been worth. So as an open letter to Mike, Dan, and Ralph, here are three basic reasons why those comments were a bad idea:

First of all, Canadians don't like Americans telling them what to do. Really, even if they think you're pretty cool for a Yank -- and they do -- they'll just get ornery about it. They tend to find it arrogant, and I think if you stop and think about it a little bit, you'll even see where they're coming from on that score. Trying to flatter them by telling them that the American left needs Canada as a beacon of hope and an orientation device isn't going to help, either. Canadians don't care about what the American left needs. If they think about you guys at all, they mostly just feel sorry for you.

Second, when you tell Canadians not to "vote for Stephen Harper," you just sound silly. This federal election isn't a battle over who's going to become the next President of Canada. Most Canadians couldn't vote for Stephen Harper even if they wanted to, because he's only running in one tiny little piece of one city in the West of the country. Remember a little concept called "parliamentary democracy" from that political science class you took back in college? That.

Third, let me explain why, since this is a parliamentary democracy, Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister of Canada isn't equal to a disaster of previously unseen proportions for Canadian liberalism, of either the small-l or large-L varieties. The polls indicate that whichever party wins the next election is going to be forming a minority government. If the NDP doesn't gain enough seats to form a stable coalition, then there are no realistic coalition partners for either the Liberals or the Conservatives. In Canada, a minority government with no coalition would last a year, maybe two on the outside, and then the opposition party gets to saddle them with incompetence and come riding in to save the day with a majority in the subsequent election. Would you *really* rather see that happen to the Liberals than the Conservatives? I didn't think so.

Mike, go ahead and keep hacking away at the leader of your own country. Ralph, you should keep up your efforts to promote a multiparty system in your native land. And Dan, stick with turning U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's name into a term of art for practitioners of anal sex. But leave the Canadian voting public alone if you guys want to keep your cool points north of the border, okay?

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