Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Electoral Hangover 

Oh man my head hurts... ...not because of any drinking, mind you. It's just that I had a combined total of 10 hours of sleep since Sunday (needed to come in early for work on Monday, then waiting forever for BC riding results last night).

I wouldn't say that the dream has been shattered, but calling the whole experience a rude awakening would not be far off. So now for the ritualistic self-reflection of the entire affair.

First off: the Liberal smear attacks worked. Now it takes two to tango, and the timid Conservative response to the bogeymen of social issues contributed just as much as the gun-in-your-face attacks themselves. But the effect was profound: anyone watching Global National last night would've known about their election day opinion poll. The stinker: 22% of voters didn't decide until Monday, of which 45% went Liberal. That's 10% of the electorate (greater than the 7% Liberal lead in the popular vote) that decided, at the last minute, to vote for "the devil you know". The fact that 22% held off until so late is a failure for the Conservatives to make a convincing case for government: the people have had months to observe Paul Martin as PM and ponder about Adscam, so their indecision is not about the Liberals. It's about the Conservatives. I knew it in my gut: hearing the high amount of last-minute decisions was already enough to know that the Liberals have taken an edge, even before the 45% swing came out of anyone's lips.

In a sense, what Colby Cosh called the "Q Effect" was effective here, but in the wrong way. The 22% that decided on election day were never counted in the polls because they were not considered "likely voters", so instead of wrongly counting non-voters as likely voters, the pollsters underestimated the number of Liberal voters.

Paul Wells notes that the Ontario results mirrored their provincial election results a year ago. He thinks that Ontarians weren't so much scared off as they were comparing their recent provincial experiences. He could be right, I wouldn't go there until someone compares some riding-by-riding results.

Ghost of a Flea is raving about "the Christian Heritage Party take-over of the Alliance." First off, I agree with Flea that the particular commenter he cited is a total retard, but not in the way he sees it: the anti-abortion anti-gay-marriage Liberal is going to do a whole lot less by himself than a Conservative government that won't rant and rave whenever someone "upsets" the "social consensus". But he has a point, in some sense, which was communicated much more effectively by Chris Taylor:
Where I differ from them is that I do not believe it's necessary or right to compel non-Christians to adhere to some facets of Christian morality (i.e. no abortions, no gay marriage) through the coercive power of the state.

As Dinesh D'Souza wrote in Letters to A Young Conservative: "A coerced virtue is no virtue at all." I do not have any qualms with voting for someone because of his social conservatism. And obviously folks like Randy White and Cheryl Gallant have a certain degree of support in their local regions. But social conservatives in the electoral sphere should realize that they are fighting the equivalent of the Italian front in WWII: you can't say you shouldn't be fighting in that theatre, but you certainly can't delude yourself into thinking that the war will be won from there.

A related clause for social conservatives complaining that Conservatives have to watch themselves while Liberals can hold so-con views without peril: the Liberal Party is one of the slickest, most effective electoral machine in the Western world (at least, in the Chretien days, but they've laid good seeds) and the cards are stacked against you, so deal with it.

Some might think that the failure of the breakthrough in Ontario will lead to a re-alignment in the Conservative Party back towards the West. Bullcrap. The Conservative caucus is now one quarter Ontarian: there is no way that the party can ignore that. As for whether Western voters will re-align, that is harder to say. Many Conservative Westerners felt that their party gave up a whole lot in the merger: triple-E Senate and the initiative/recall/referendum tenets of electoral reform went the way of the dodo. And there seemed to be a real, substantial sentiment in Ontario that Liberal graft and corruption will be punished. But when the sentencing came, and the Liberals were merely given a probation (to be enforced by the NDP!), I think many Westerners will wonder again: what will it take? Preston Manning may be right: alienation in the West may enter a whole new dynamic.

On a provincial level, if the federal election is considered to be shadow voting on a provincial level, then the governments of BC and Saskatchewan have most to worry. Lorne Calvert found his federal cousins annihilated, while Gordon Campbell finds that his ideological brethrens losing seats, the only province west of Quebec to lose Conservatives. Quebec politics is too weird for me to judge, and I think the perception of the Atlantic provinces about the federal Conservatives and their own (red) PC parties are so far apart that the two aren't all that correlated. As for whether McGuinty was punished or not, I can't say until I check some riding results, as mentioned earlier.

And oh, I ask fellow Conservative Party members to not act like idiots and start mumbling about tossing out our leader. That's the kind of attitude that led to three straight Liberal majorities in the first place.

I'm sure I have more to say on this, but I can't remember what it was. Maybe I'll come back to it later tonight.
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