One of the whines going around this year by idiots in Canada and along the Acela, is that American elections take so much longer than Canadian elections.
It’s true, but that says so many good things about America, and so few good things about the Great White North.
American federal elections do last much longer than Canadian federal elections, it’s true. Ted Cruz announced on March 23, 2015, the first candidate to do so. The election is on November 8, giving us 19 and a half months of formal campaigning from start to finish.
The writs of election were issued in Canada on August 4, 2015, opening the formal campaigns. The election was on October 19, meaning the Canadian election lasted about 17 months less than ours.
That’s a huge gap, but keep in mind the difference isn’t just one of preferences or tradition. Our elections take longer because our elections give the people more options. That is, the difference in the election lengths highlights the democracy deficit present in Canada.
In Canada, the people actually have very little say. Party leaders are chosen by closed, opaque processes with no public input. Candidates are chosen in back room deals by those party bosses. Then, after the election, the hand-picked candidates install the party leader as Prime Minister, with the threat of deselection (being left off the ballot next time) if they dissent.
Imagine if John Boehner could tell Republicans “Vote for me for Speaker or you will be forced out of your seat, no matter what the voters say.” That’s how it works in Canada.
Further, Canadian political processes have no clear mechanisms for ensuring the parties are influenced by all regions of Canada. Party elites decide everything. If they have a Calgary mindset, or Toronto, or Montreal, then that’s who the party will govern for. In modern times, Quebec has given the country most of its prime ministers, with diversity coming in the form of the right-wing parties bringing in leaders from the west. Canada hasn’t had a prime minister from a province east of Quebec since Robert Borden represented Nova Scotia in 1920.
Contrast with America. Here, to be a party’s Presidential nominee, you have to go to the voters themselves, directly. And you don’t just have to speak to them one time, in one place, either. You have to go to each state, listen to them, and they get to decide whether to support you or not. That’s important. We may moan about the role of ethanol in national politics, but that sure beats having the entire process run by New York, Texas, and California. That’s what it’s like in Canada.
Candidate selection, or the primary process here in America, took over a year of that 19 and a half month process we endure. So sure, Canadians think their process is better because it’s shorter, but it’s only in America that a guy like Barack Obama could be nominated: a guy out of Hawaii with no name recognition, no family ties to power, and no personal fortune to tap.
Only in America can bottom-up processes spring up that overthrow established leaders, forcing change on the government. Our system truly is of the people, by the people, and for the people, in a way that top-down Parliamentary systems cannot be.
It takes us a while to elect a President, and that’s the way it ought to be.