Missing: a consensus candidate

February 4, 2016   ·   0 Comments

AT LEAST FROM THIS VANTAGE POINT, next November’s presidential election south of the Canada-U.S. border is shaping up to be a battle between two extremes.

With the presidential primaries now under way (the first being in Iowa Monday) the two leading Republican candidates to succeed Barack Obama – Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – are both far removed from the likes of GOP presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, who managed to get a lot done by appealing to moderates in both U.S. parties. And there seems to be a real possibility that the Democratic party candidate will be Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and would replace ‘Obamacare’ with a single-payer system similar to our medicare.

But even if Hilary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and runs a campaign based on a commitment to preserve and enhance the achievements of Mr. Obama, the choice for U.S. voters will be between a centrist and a far-right candidate for the White House.

And if that happens, at least some of the voters will look enviously at what’s happening in Canada.

It may not have looked like it at the time, but our voters wound up choosing a consensus candidate in Justin Trudeau. Although the Liberals’ campaign theme was “real change,” the party’s platform reflected what ordinary Canadians said they wanted to see happen. And the result has been opinion polls showing that if a federal election were held today the Liberals would win even more seats than they did last October.

In fact, a poll released last week by EKOS Research Associates showed the Liberals enjoying the support of 46 per cent of those polled, up from about 39 per cent in the election,  while the Conservatives were down to about 25 per cent and the NDP were holding steady at 15 per cent, roughly double the support enjoyed by the Green Party at 7%.

EKOS said the poll finds the new government “enjoying a remarkable and almost unprecedented level of support from the Canadian public. This is even more impressive when we consider the backdrop of continued gloom about the economy with less than one in five feeling the economy is growing. It is clear that the public are extending some patience to the new government in this ocean of goodwill.”

Meanwhile, only one name has been raised as a potential compromise candidate for the U.S. presidency, that of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is threatening to throw $1 billion from his personal wealth into a “third party” candidacy.

Generally regarded as a moderate Republican, he has been sharply critical of Donald Trump and undoubtedly sees himself as potentially the only moderate candidate if Mr. Trump and Senator Sanders win the nominations.

However, his own media company, Bloomberg News, recently published “The ‘Bleak’ History of Third-Party Presidential Bids,” which examined previous failures of third-party candidates. And the New York Times noted that every previous bid by a New York mayor to seek the presidency was a failure.

As we see it, an “independent” candidate for the presidency might be a lot more successful than all those before him or her, since Americans generally have little trust for politicians in either party, and for good reason.

As an episode on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes pointed out, Congress has rebuffed all attempts to curb the arrival in the U.S. of billions of dollars of “dirty money,” funds raised by corrupt regimes and individuals and moved through shell companies set up by U.S. lawyers to facilitate the “laundering” operations said to have involved about $300 billion.

A compromise candidate might also be inclined to curb the powerful lobbying activities that have prevented any legislative action on gun control and have made the U.S. health care system the most expensive and least efficient in the industrialized world.

But at this point the only certainty is that many billions of dollars more than need be will be spent on all the campaigning.

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