When “hanging chad” popped up in the headlines in November of 2000 I assumed, at first, that a hardened criminal named Chad was about to be strung up for murder or some other heinous crime.
But the chad in question wasn’t a convict; it was an innocent circle of paper meant to be punched from ballot cards by Floridians voting in the 2000 presidential election. Sun-baked citizens encountered some difficulty popping those bits of paper free, however: thousands of chads were left “hanging”.
Seniors were to blame, I’ll bet. Retirees make up a higher percentage of Florida’s population than in any other state. Imagine Mildred and Ernest, frail and bent, vision dimmed by cataracts, ballots clutched in arthritic, trembling hands, vainly stabbing at the paper circles.
The automated machines meant to record the results couldn’t accurately process partially dislodged chads - and the outcome of the election literally hung in the balance.
George W. Bush led Albert Gore by just a few hundred votes in Florida (out of almost six million cast in the state) as the battle for the Oval Office came to down to a razor-thin margin in the Gator state.
“Dimpled” and “pregnant” chads quickly joined their hanging brethren in the ranks of improperly processed votes. Recount purgatory ensued. Scrutineers with magnifying glasses pored over thousands upon thousands of punch-cards in a subjective - ultimately futile - attempt to divine voter intent based on the degree of injury inflicted on the paper.
Fierce political jostling erupted. The Supreme Court of the United States finally stepped in to put a stop to it all (not before armies of lawyers had done grievous injury to the national treasury), awarding George Bush the keys to the Oval Office with an official Florida margin of 537 votes – and 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266. Like Donald Trump 16 years in the future, he won the presidency despite losing the nationwide popular vote. The rest is history.
Blame Ralph Nader. He took almost 3 million votes across the country, almost 98,000 of them in Florida - votes that would have been far more likely to accrue to Mr. Gore than to Mr. Bush if Nader’s Green Party vanity campaign hadn’t been in the mix. Had Mr. Nader not run, Al Gore would have been President. That’s the inconvenient truth.
Mr. Nader hadn’t the faintest hope of becoming president, of course. The only difference he made was to hand the Oval Office keys to Dubya.
No-hopers run for office all the time, but their presence on the ballot sometimes throws a significant spanner into the political works.
Consider the hard-fought 2017 provincial election in British Columbia, which left the incumbent BC Liberals with 43 seats, the NDP with 41, and the Greens with just three. NDP leader John Horgan promptly struck a deal with the Greens to seize power, even though the Liberals had beaten him both in seat count and in the province-wide popular vote.
It couldn’t have happened without the riding of Courtenay-Comox. Liberal candidate Jim Benninger went down to defeat, losing by 189 votes to NDP challenger Ronna-Rae Leonard. The death-knell for Mr. Benninger proved to be Conservative Party candidate Leah McCulloch, representing a party with no provincial standing. She was a no-hope option, but she sucked up 2,201 votes, votes that - had she not been on the ballot - would have gone overwhelmingly to Mr. Benninger: Christy Clark would still be premier, and the unholy Horgan-Weaver alliance that continues to roil Canadian politics would never have happened.
The last thing Ms. McCulloch’s conservative supporters wanted, presumably, was to see ardent socialists joining forces to take over their province.
So why do the Naders and the McCullochs of the world do it? Why do they run for office with no prospect whatever of being elected? The reasons are varied and largely beyond the scope of this piece. But vanity, and her twin sister envy, inevitably play starring roles.
This sort of monkey business is in play once again as Canada's federal election battle draws to a close.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government dangles by a thread, suspended like a tortured chad, following a maiden mandate shot through with incompetent, divisive, unethical governance.
The sum of Mr. Trudeau’s useful accomplishments after four years in office would fit into the period at the end of this sentence, with ample room left over for his ego. That he stands even a chance of re-election is incomprehensible, given the hash he has made of things. Yet here we are.
His chief rival for the prime minister’s office, Andrew Scheer, may yet topple him. But by deploying Quebec dairy farmers (who took out temporary Conservative Party memberships) to seize the Conservative Party leadership in 2017, he sprung a Maxime Bernier-sized leak in his party. It may not be a big one, but it threatens to drain away enough votes to gift Mr. Trudeau with re-election, despite Liberal blundering the likes of which have rarely been witnessed in the history of Canadian politics.
Mr. Bernier and his People’s Party have zero chance of forming government – and he knows it. He’s a classic no-hoper. He has some good ideas, but whatever his principles, his campaign is fired by vanity and envy, topped by truckloads of bitterness.
Those of you poised to vote for him on Monday because you agree with some of his policies should reflect deeply on what sort of government you want. The choice is stark. Do you really want another administration led by a corrupt autocrat – worse, one led by a corrupt autocrat propped up by a fellow admirer of Fidel Castro?
When Mr. Castro died in 2016, Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh tried to outdo each other in fawning praise for the brutal Cuban dictator:
Mr. Singh: “He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he led a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #FidelCastro.”
Mr. Trudeau: “Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”
Singh may have a winsome personality, but a proper read of his platform should send any sensible Canadian skittering away in fright. One would think that if the past four years have taught us anything at all, they have taught us this: substance matters far more than style.
Ask yourself: do you really want to risk installing a government led by these two clowns?
The only sensible option in this election is the Conservative Party. Which means voting for Andrew Scheer, even if you have to hold your nose to do it.
Scheer and the Conservatives are far from the perfect choice. Many of us are de facto political orphans, with no party’s platform truly reflective of our political views, leaving us forced to choose the “least bad” option.
I’m not a fan, for example, of the boutique tax credits rolled out by Scheer, or of his commitment to continued deficit spending, or of the Conservative party position on drug decriminalization (can we not learn from Portugal, for crying out loud?). Don’t get me started on the “free museum pass” nonsense.
And you could have knocked me over with a feather when he announced that he would not defund the CBC – this after the leftist Liberal mouthpiece actually sued the Conservative Party during the waning days of an election campaign. You couldn’t make this stuff up. If I were in Mr. Scheer’s shoes, my first piece of legislation as newly installed PM would permanently strip all public funding from the hopelessly corrupt broadcaster.
Nor am I pleased that the Conservatives have offered up nothing in the way of innovative health care reform, given that health care spending already hoovers up 45% of all taxes collected, in the face of a population that is steadily greying.
But stacked up next to the unthinkable, four more years of Justin Trudeau – or, horror of horrors, Trudeau and Singh – I’m all in for Scheer.
Remarkably, the malodorous SNC Lavalin mess hasn’t come up for much serious discussion in a campaign buried beneath an avalanche of asinine mudslinging.
But here’s a reminder:
Mr. Trudeau stood in front of cameras last January and flatly lied to the Canadian people about the influence he brought to bear on then attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould. He pushed her, repeatedly, to provide a get-out-jail-free card to a Quebec-based Liberal-party-funding construction giant – one that paid bribes to secure a contract to build jails for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and then rewarded Gaddafi’s willingness to play ball by securing a bevy of Canadian prostitutes to service his playboy son. When Ms. Wilson Raybould refused to play ball, Mr. Trudeau fired her.
And then he lied about it. Repeatedly.
It’s the Canadian equivalent of Richard Nixon looking the American people in the eye in 1973 and saying, “I am not a crook”. We all know what happened to him.
After the late, great journalist and former physician Charles Krauthammer passed away in 2018, his son published The Point Of It All, a collection of his father’s greatest essays. In the preface he quoted his father’s words from an earlier work, Things That Matter:
“While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance, and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate.
In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics… because in the end, everything - high and low and, most especially high - lives or dies by politics… because of its capacity, when benign, to allow all around it to flourish, and in its capacity, when malign, to make all around it wither.”
Your vote matters. Use it wisely.
Vote strategically. Vote Conservative.
Send a message to our youth that ethics and integrity still matter.
Vote for our country to flourish, rather than wither.
Isn’t that the point of it all?