Political pundit in training

Where do I begin and how do I dare to try to analyze something that has just happened and seems extraordinarily complex?  I feel a little like cantors on Yom Kippur, in expressing my inadequacy for the task.

I’m speaking of course of figuring out what happened in the May 2, 2011 federal election which started at out like a boring rerun and ended up like an exploding surprise box with chocolate cream surprise for some and a pie in the face for others.  There was apparently a revolution and the NDP won over 100 seats.  We’re not sure but that might have been the mighty winds a-blowin’ up from the Midwest in the U.S.

In this new reality, the Bloc Quebecois is almost non-existent and were defeated by any candidate the NDP could put up; the Liberals have been reduced to their lowest level ever so that their leaders who speak of them as the “natural ruling party” start to look a little like the guy in the corner wearing a straitjacket, who thinks he’s Napoleon.  At least some voters in B.C. ate something which made them turn Green and Elizabeth May was elected.   I think we were all transported to the Land of Oz by a giant tornado, a little like Dorothy and Toto.

I enjoyed watching the “pundits” and “experts” on CBC towards the end, who almost all gave firm predictions while revealing their biases within 30 seconds of beginning to talk.

But maybe it was all idle speculation.  Instead of experts, the members of the panel should have been introduced as “our group of politically biased wild guessers”.  They could then all have looked at the camera and said, “We have no idea what we’re talking about and your guess is as good as ours.”  The rest of the time, they could have played soothing classical music.  I was delighted when one pundit from the Maritimes admitted that, “before we begin, we should all just say that we have no idea of what is going on.”

This election felt oppressive at first and then suddenly it was like a carbonated drink under pressure when the top of the bottle is loosened.  All the parties had been telling us that we had no choice but must vote for them in order to prevent something.  Somewhere just before the debate, however, Layton and the NDP picked up that people were tired of being given either-or choices and started to tell people they could vote how they wanted, a Canadian version of  ”Yes, you can”. Of course that’s always been true but now we had a new Moses that would lead us out of the wilderness, leaning on his staff.  I kept expecting him to throw down his cane and turn it into a snake.  But then I had just come through Passover.

On the other hand, the Canadian electorate is getting older and crankier, we old folks like stability (even former potheads and campus radicals) and more of us vote.  And so in the midst of the sweeping revolution we seem to have had its opposite, the search for stability and continuity.  That’s why Canadians are called ‘middle of the road’, because we try to do opposite things at the same time.  Revolution with ongoing practicality.

Quebecers played their part by using their interpersonal antennae to vote in large numbers for the NDP (58 seats – up from 1), which will suddenly find itself full of more radical leftists and Quebec nationalists.

So here are the lessons for the next election:

  • Better to be positive without being too specific.
  • If you’re the leader, make sure you at least get elected.
  • Be relaxed and tell good jokes, especially in French.
  • Play the game with voters like a goalie facing a penalty shooter.  Don’t move off your line until they do. Once you get the feel of where people are going – get out in front and lead.

Quod est demonstrandum.


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