The United States is becoming, well, Canadian.
That will seem like a wild exaggeration to some. But consider.
The campaign itself was as nasty and divisive as always on the advertising side, and at street level. But at the presidential level, especially, there was courtesy. Romney-haters will disagree. But at no time in this campaign, certainly not in public, did Romney bare his fangs in anything like a Rush Limbaugh-style display of rage. He was aggressive but respectful. More to the point, his policy positions – during the campaign at least – were centrist. But it was too little centrism, too late.
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This is a historic, demographics-driven shift, captured – ironically – by GOP backer Clint Eastwood in his excellent 2008 film, Grand Torino. In the movie, Eastwood plays a salt-of-the-earth white Republican of Eisenhower vintage, beset by Asian, Hispanic and black neighbours on all sides. His car, the mythical Grand Torino, is a metaphor for and homage to the old America – white, blue-collar, Christian, conservative, and able to build things that last forever – that’s disappearing. The movie may as well have been crafted as a prelude to this election.
But it’s the state-by-state propositions, non-presidential ballot items, that truly jump out. In Michigan, voters turned thumbs-down in overwhelming numbers to billionaire Matty Moroun’s cockeyed scheme to stop a new bridge being built between Windsor and Detroit. That may not be explicitly a vote for Canada, but it’s certainly not isolationism or protectionism.
In Maryland, Maine, Washington State and Colorado, meanwhile, Canadian-ness is spreading like a bad rash. The first three jurisdictions approved same-sex marriage by plebiscite – the first time this has ever happened. The latter two have legalized recreational marijuana. These outcomes have national import: As the Associated Press’s David Crary points out, the U.S. Justice Department must now determine how to deal with legalized pot, which it still considers illegal, and the Supreme Court will be expected to consider new state precedents in future hearings on same-sex marriage.
Ah, I hear you say – but Canada hasn’t legalized pot. In fact, the Harper government moved in the opposite direction with omnibus crime bill C-10, imposing harsh new sentences for growers of as few as six plants. That may be so – but as Americans have once again shown, popular sentiment leads. The Harper government has gone all Grand Torino on crime, because it’s one area where it can court social conservatives in its base without sparking a fierce backlash among progressives.