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Jewish World Review
Jan. 10, 2006
/ 10 Teves, 5766
Other Americans Vote
This year our two neighbors and fellow members of the North American Free Trade Area will have general elections Canada on January 23, Mexico on July 2 and from north and south of the border we'll hear some disconcerting rhetoric. But we shouldn't get too alarmed. Our two neighbor nations are asymmetrical demographically and economically Canada has 32 million people with per capita incomes of $24,470; Mexico has 104 million people with per capita incomes of $6,230. Oddly, though, they do have symmetrical political party systems.
Each has only one party with substantial support in all regions the Liberal Party in Canada and the PRI in Mexico. These parties have been governing for most of the recent past the Liberals for 28 of 38 years since 1968, the PRI from 1929 to 2000 and both have been beset by corruption. Both countries have left-wing parties to which voters have not been willing to entrust their national governments the New Democratic Party in Canada, the PRD in Mexico. Both have right-wing parties often criticized for being too pro-free-market and too pro-U.S. Conservatives in Canada and PAN in Mexico. Canada also has the Bloc Quebecois, on the ballot only in Quebec. The right and left parties also have limited geographic appeal. Conservatives win few votes in Quebec and the NDP runs third outside a few metro and mining areas, while Mexico's PAN is weak in southern Mexico and the PRD is weak in the north.
In Canada, the Liberals have impressive advantages wide geographic reach, a seasoned leader in Prime Minister Paul Martin, an economy that has been growing impressively, greater acceptance in possibly separatist Quebec. But they also have scandal problems, including revelations that an antiseparatist ad campaign in Quebec set up by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to well-connected Liberals. More recently, there has been a criminal investigation of alleged insider trading involving Finance Minister Ralph Goodale. In 2004 the Liberals led Conservatives in popular votes by 37 to 30 percent but won only a minority of seats and had to govern with support from the NDP. Recent polls show the two parties tied or Conservatives ahead, and there are enough seats within their reach for them to form a government with the Bloc Quebecois. Martin's trump card is anti-Americanism: He pointedly refused to cooperate with the United States on missile defense and got into a verbal spat with the U.S. ambassador. He has charged that the Conservatives' Stephen Harper has a "hidden agenda" code words for suggesting he's a clone of George W. Bush.
Big talk. In Mexico, the leader in the polls could be even more hostile to the United States. The PRD's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has won wide popularity as mayor of Mexico City and is running on the platform of "the poor first." President Vicente Fox tried to have him declared ineligible, but backed down. It's unclear how far Lopez Obrador would retreat from the market policies of Fox and his PRI predecessors Ernesto Zedillo and Carlos Salinas de Gortari. But Fox, with no PAN majority in the Congreso, has been unable to open up the oil industry to foreign investment and has sharply criticized the Bush administration and Congress for not allowing easier immigration. Lopez Obrador and Roberto Madrazo, the PRI candidate with longtime ties to old machine politics, would most likely be even more critical. PAN candidate Felipe Calderon, from a different faction of the party than Fox, has been rising in polls but might be critical, too.
So the prospect is for rhetorically hostile governments in our two neighbors. Even if Harper and Calderon win, they will probably lack legislative majorities, and they will have to deal with the chattering classes in Toronto's Rosedale and Mexico City's San Angel who, like their counterparts in Georgetown, reflexively oppose U.S. foreign policy and ooze with contempt for Bush. Back around 1990, Canada's Brian Mulroney and Mexico's Salinas strengthened ties with the United States. Those days are gone. But neither country seems about to give up the economic benefits of NAFTA or to join Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. We might not like our neighbors' campaign rhetoric, but we can live with the results.
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Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future
America is divided into two camps, according to U.S. News and World Reports writer and Fox commentator Michael Barone. No, not Red and Blue, though one suspects Barone may taint the two groups in the hues of the 2000 presidential election. Barone's divided America is one part Hard, one part Soft. Hard America is steeled by the competition and accountability of the free market, while Soft America is the product of public school and government largesse. Inspired by the notion that America produces incompetent 18 year olds and remarkably competent 30 year olds, Barone embarks on a breezy 162-page commentary that will spark mostly huzzahs from the right and jeers from the left. Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report. Comment by clicking here.
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