Just Win, Baby

Letter From Victoria

In 1968, George Wallace said that there wasn’t a “dime worth’s of difference” between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.  Implicit there was the suggestion that Americans were not satisfied with echoes and preferred choices.  As it happens, Wallace was the last third-party presidential candidate to win Electoral College votes.  Besides 14 percent of the popular vote, he took Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  In 2000, the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore was barely quantifiable.  Yet, despite the Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan candidacies, the Republicrats took over 96 percent of the popular vote.  In 2004, they will likely top 98 percent.  In America, third-party votes were once thought wasteful; now, they are sinful.

In Canada, we have many choices: third, fourth, even fifth parties.  Forming new parties is easy and cheap, as there are strict limits on campaign spending.  Any party that manages two percent of the vote gets taxpayer funding and free airtime.  In the 2004 election, the two leading parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, together won less than two thirds of the vote and only 234 of the 308 seats.  Curiously, however, the leaden echo of political uniformity is as loud here as in America.

No, I haven’t forgotten Canada’s separatists, the Bloc Québécois, who rebounded...

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