Cheol Joon Baek
Barack Obama wins. Time to rejoice. And for conservative forces in the Great White North to take note. It's a wake-up call. The political middle ain't dead yet. It's just moved some in recent years.
Our American cousins have rejected the two-faced politics of Mitt Romney and the Republican party despite the best efforts of Wall Street's super-rich and corporate donors to buy a different outcome.
Some $6 billion was spent on the U.S. federal elections this go-round, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A good chunk of that was raised through Super PACs (Political Action Committees) and right-wing so-called "citizens" groups headed by the likes of former Bush Prince of Darkness Karl Rove, and funnelled to Republican candidates.
Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Public Citizen says big money's influence on the American electoral system has handed control of elections to a "financial oligarchy." On Tuesday night, Americans took their electoral system back.
So November 6's beat-back is at least as important as the 2008 win that made Obama America's first black president. It restores some faith in the idea that big money doesn't always win out. Maybe it's not just the economy, stupid, any more. White men aren;t calling th shots anymore.
No doubt right-wing political strategists in Canuckistan who've been helping to blaze a decidedly Republicanesque trail here were studying Obama's victory. The usual suspects were eerily silent on the Twitterverse Tuesday as results came rolling in and it became obvious that Obama would carry the day.
The HarperCons, our version of the GOP, have donned the mantle of the country's natural governing party. And while some guy named Trudeau or Mulcair may have something to say about that three years from now, there's little doubt the conservative sensibility dominates across huge swaths of this country.
Some thanks for that go to the Republicans' divide-and-conquer electoral tactics so enthusiastically embraced by fervent disciples like Mike Harris and Stephen Harper.
Or perhaps it's a coincidence that the Supreme Court of Canada only last month weighed in on voting irregularities in Etobicoke Centre. Voter suppression, robocalls, attack ads: the nastiness that's marked electoral politics south of the border has been bleeding north for the better part of the last two decades.
Some 37 ridings reported receiving calls redirecting Liberal and NDP voters to the wrong polling stations during the last federal election. That's no flash in the pan, I'd say.
The courts have found the HarperCons guilty of contravening campaign spending rules. But cheating to win seems a sound strategy when the penalty the courts hand down is a fine of a few thousand dollars. A small price to pay.
Ever since Harris and the Common Sense Revolution, Republican spinmeisters have been teaching their northern counterparts the dirty tricks of the trade, showing them the way to win elections.
Politics, as a result, has become a numbers game, less about ideas than about knowing your base and getting them out to vote in larger numbers than your opponent's. There are now no political adversaries to defeat, only political enemies to destroy - or so the theory goes.
Back at the start, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a former adviser to right-wing presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander, was drafted into the PC cause. Oh how we snickered. Until Harris won.
Pretty soon other senior advisers to former and current Republican presidents, among them Rove, were making their way here with more regularity to spread the gospel according to the conservative cause.
Twenty years later, it's come full circle, right down to Harper pals the National Citizens Coalition's efforts to push for the kind of virtually unregulated campaign spending enjoyed by the Super PACs, or Political Action Committees, stateside. All in the name of "more freedom through less government." Sound familiar?
And then there's Rob Ford, the robocall king himself.
Is there any better example of American-style realpolitik than our populist Boss Hogg mayor, a real-life Huey Long?
He is a fishing bud of Harp's, after all. And a disciple, too, of Harris. He even has his own propaganda outlet, a Sunday radio show. Who needs the City Hall press corps when you've got your own media channel through which to influence the masses?
The mayor's brother Doug, who never tires of telling us how we should be more like the States, clearly learned a few tricks about U.S.-style electioneering while he was in Chicago tending to the Ford family fortunes.
Rob Ford's connections to the Republican party are, in fact, more than philosophical.
One of his first official acts as mayor was to welcome the Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, to City Hall. Ford admired his cowboy boots.
Scott's predecessor, Jeb Bush, the alleged vote rigger in the famous runoff between his brother George and Al Gore in 2000, paid a "courtesy call" to the mayor earlier this year. Ford's new bag man, one Ralph Lean, likes to point out to his clients that he's pals with George Bush Sr. and Jr. His client list also includes - wait for it - loony tunes Donald Trump.
Republican types dominate the current lobbying orgy at City Hall over a Toronto casino. One of the Las Vegas high rollers who've enjoyed an audience with the mayor on that matter is Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. head was Romney's biggest donor, according to Public Citizen, contributing some $20 million to Romney-supporting Super PAC Restore Our Future.
At the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre on Monday night, launching her Ontario Liberal party leadership bid, Kathleen Wynne talked about the importance of this moment for politics in this province. She doesn't believe voters are divided along left-right lines. Or that there's no middle ground left in politics.
That sounds like a fanciful proposition in these polarized times. But Obama's win proves there's still hope not only for the political middle, but for progressives.
A new coalition consisting of urban women, the LGBT community and visible minorities (black and Latino) have now voted consistently for Obama and to some degree John Kerry before him for three straight elections.
Conservative forces in Canada take note. The pendulum has swung.