Liberals inherit their politics; Conservatives and New Democrats rationalize their partisanship

Cameron Anderson and Laura Stephenson, associate professors in the political science faculty at the University of Western Ontario, wondered about the concept of “partisanship” in Canadian politics and what that might mean for voting behaviour.

By partisanship, the professors mean the concept of an individual being attached to or having some sort of affective bond to a particular party. How strong is that bond? What are the factors that influence the bonding and, by extension, the unbonding, if you will, of that relationship? And are there some differences between Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats when it comes to the partisan attachment its supporters have?

The answer, in a paper they presented over the summer at the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, is that yes: The research seems to indicate that Liberals come to be Liberals by a different route than New Democrats and Conservatives come to their party affiliation.

For example: If you're a Liberal partisan, the odds are pretty good that at least one of your parents was a Liberal. Anderson and Stephenson find that 55 per cent of those who identify themselves as a Liberal partisan have a parent who is a Liberal but just 38 per cent of Conservatives can say the same thing and 23 per cent of New Democrats get their NDP orange from their parents.

And while more Liberals inherit their fondness for that party, Conservatives and New Democrats appear to have rationalized their way to their particular political brand. The researchers say that 90 per cent of Conservatives come to identify themselves as Conservative because they “held positive issue tallies” with the party. What they mean by “issue tallies” is that partisan keeps a kind of running scorecard about his or her partisan attachment and whenever new information about relationship surfaces it reinforces that partisan attachment or weakens it. In other words, I suppose, Conservatives and NDP partisans are constantly matching up their political bent to the latest political information they have and constantly questioning their partisan attachment. Kind of sheds a new light on how and why parties on the right in Alberta, for example, and a few times in Canadian federal history exhibit a pattern whereby splinter parties will pop up and often eat the mainstream right-wing party. (Alberta PCs, say hello to Wild Rose!)

New Democrats have a similar “cognitive influence” approach to their brand with 80 per cent, according to the researchers, arriving at the New Democrat outlook on life by thinking about it rather than inheriting it.

Just 62 per cent of Liberal partisans are Liberal partisans because they thought themselves into that position.

Now, I am probably overgeneralizing the findings of Anderson and Stephenson. It's a little more nuanced than all that. They conclude, for instance, that there are number of sociodemographic factors that are very strong for each party that influence partisanship. If you're a Protestant, for example, you're more likely to be a Conservative. The researchers find that if you're a Catholic and/or an immigrant, you are [still] likely to be a Liberal.

Moreover, the authors make quite an effort to point out that parental partisanship, sociodemographic factors, and cognitive influence should not be given equal weight as factors when it comes to determining partisanship. In fact, as they say, the “cognitive influence” may be, the researchers conclude, the most significant factor that influences how partisans come to choose their party and it is also the most significant factor influencing the “intensity” of partisan's attachment to his or her party.

And, in one interesting datapoint in their paper, the researchers find that the loyalty of Liberal and NDP partisans tend to be influenced more by the party leader than do Conservative partisans.

Summing up then:

Liberal partisans share parental partisanship in great numbers, but even those partisans are not affected by parental partisanship when it comes to intensity and vote loyalty. Sociodemographic influences tend to be more significant for the Liberal and PC parties but not the NDP. This suggests an interesting divide among the parties, but also indicates that the effect of socialization on Canadians partisans is relatively weak.

Still: All of this is kind of fun stuff as we think about how any party might grow its base by stealing support from another party. We might extrapolate from these findings that:

1. So long as Liberals continue to reproduce, it stands to reason they will produce a lot of Liberals in future generations.

2. If only Liberals would think about it for a minute, they might not be Liberals.

3. The political leanings of a Conservative and New Democrat can be affected by an appeal to reason.  Presumably, if any party can figure out how to make a rational appeal to Tory or NDP partisans, there are votes to be had.

Note to policymakers: If you're going to spend, well, then, spend!

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells have some prescriptions for U.S. policymakers to help them find “The Way Out of the Slump”:

… if you believe that deficit spending is an effective way to reduce unemployment … why not advocate going all the way and spending enough to restore full employment? Yet that is a recommendation few economists have been willing to make …

Krugman, himself, actually made that argument [PDF] in what he called “an ureadable little paper” back in December, 2008 in which he did what economists do with complicated models and lots of other stuff that was too much for me back when I was an undergraduate taking a second-year course in intermediate macroeconomics. So I'll trust that Krugman has his math right (or wait for others to tell me his math is wrong) because his diagnosis and prescription feel broadly right to me:

I went into the liquidity trap business believing that the concept of such a trap was nonsense – that you can always drive up prices by printing money. It wasn’t until I wrote down a very simple maximizing model that I realized that this was wrong, that a monetary expansion perceived as temporary may be entirely ineffective.. [and so] … when the economy is in a liquidity trap government spending should expand up to the point at which full employment is restored. That’s not a guess or a statement of personal preferences, it’s a result.

This is — I hope the point is obvious — more than just an academic argument nearly two years after Krugman published that “unreadable little paper”. The Canadian government is relatively firmly fixed on the idea that government spending will cease well before full employment is restored. (And by full employment, I mean where the unemployment rate is somewhere near structural levels and there are roughly the same number/quality of full-time jobs in Canada back as there was before the recession.) In Canada, our federal government and most provincial governments can certainly afford more spending in the sense that our debt ratios are, compared to eveyone else in the world, relatively low and that certain important tax-generating parts of our economy are holding up well.

Krugman and Wells, in the essay from this month that I'm about to quote extensively from, say that even the United States, seen by most as a financial basket case way over its head in debt, can, in fact, afford to spend more and, in fact, it ought to spend more to restore full employment. That advice, if taken, would be of tremendous help to its largest trading partner, Canada, and to many others in the developed world.

Krugman and Wells set out their prescription for policymakers by way of reviewing three new books about the current economic crisis. The one they appear to admire the most is Richard C. Koo's The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japans' Great Recession.

Koo…sees Japan as a qualified success story. In his view, the financial wreckage that occurred when Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980s burst could easily have led to a depression-level slump. Japan, however, managed to avoid that fate. The key, he argues, was those much-maligned budget deficits. Japan’s fiscal gap, he declares, “is a perfect example of a good deficit,” which sustained the economy while the private sector gradually restored its balance sheets to health. The only times Japanese policy went wrong, in Koo’s view, were those occasions when policymakers tried to return to budget orthodoxy, in each case setting off a new recession.

…But can governments really continue to borrow and spend? Yes, says Koo: like the world Keynes saw in the 1930s, today’s world is awash in savings with nowhere to go…

..This is, needless to say, a view very much at odds with the current conventional wisdom—but these days the conventional wisdom is looking very foolish.

Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper,  who has a graduate degree in economics and did, to his credit, abandon ideology in favour of rational action at the beginning of the crisis, is now articulating this “conventional wisdom”  in various international fora. Here is Harper in Davos, Switzerland, last spring:

We all know the long-term risks of prolonged government spending of this magnitude: renewed inflation, rising interest rates, crowding out of investment and prolonged sluggish economic performance.

Not true, say  Krugman and Wells. Or at least, not yet.

Ever since the crisis began, establishment figures have warned that the bond markets are about to lose faith in nations with big budget deficits; yet interest rates keep falling rather than rising. At this point all of the major advanced-country governments can borrow long-term at an interest rate of less than 3 percent. These low long-term rates show that markets aren’t worried that current budget deficits will undermine the long-run fiscal viability of these governments. The low rates also suggest that there are no obstacles to a policy of supporting the economy with temporary deficit spending, whether that spending takes the form of investment in infrastructure, aid to the unemployed, or rebates to taxpayers . . .

Unconventional policies are as badly needed as ever; but policymakers have lost their nerve. Urged on by far too many policy intellectuals, they have reverted to conventional modes of thought.

The almighty markets, we’re told, will punish those who fail to impose harsh fiscal austerity even in the face of very high unemployment—even though, as we have noted, the reality of falling interest rates shows no indication that the much-feared “bond vigilantes”—investors who will stage a run on the debts of major nations, driving interest rates sky-high, unless deficits are brought down quickly—have any real existence. There is no sign that the US government, in selling bonds, will have trouble borrowing in order to finance deficit spending.

…Meanwhile, everyone seems to be ignoring the risks of allowing the slump to go on. The economic crisis that began in 2008 is by no means over. And if governments fail to act, the worst may be yet to come.

And remember — Krugman and Wells are talking about the U.S. Certainly, given Canada's substantially more healthy federal fiscal picture, there would seem to be less risk. So if our policy makers decided to spend their way out of this recession, then let's do it and actually spend our way out of this recession.


Absolutely fascinating: John Sculley on Steve Jobs

I've run into John Sculley  and shot the breeze with him whenever I've attended my favourite conference, PopTech, in Camden, Maine. Sculley has a fabulous place there just down the street from the opera house that is PopTech's home. I was a tech reporter back then, back in the days when the Internet was all new (I was an AOL member when it had less than 5,000 members, so there) and ebay and had yet to be invented.

One of the companies that fascinated me then — and still does — is Apple. Sculley was Apple's CEO for a decade or so in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. He'd come to Apple from Pepsi where he had great success marketing the hell out of Pepsi and stealing Coke's market share and Apple's board wanted him to do the same thing with computers.

In this fabulously interesting interview, Sculley admits that he didn't know a thing about computers — one reason why he made the near-disastrous decision to stick with Motorola processor rather than Intel's x86 processor in the 1990s — and he talks a lot about Steve Jobs and how Jobs apparently doesn't talk to Sculley anymore.

Jobs was Apple's largest single shareholder when Sculley got hired as CEO but, though Jobs wanted to be CEO, the Apple board of directors picked Sculley instead.

Sculley would eventually get fired by Apple's board. Wikipedia has this verdict on Sculley's tenure at Apple:

“Sculley increased Apple's sales from $800 million to $8 billion. However, his stint at Apple remains controversial due to his departure from founder Steve Jobs's sales structure, particularly regarding his decision to compete with IBM in selling computers to the same types of customers. He was ultimately forced out of Apple in 1993 as the company's margins eroded, sales diminished and stock declined”

Two CEOs later, Jobs came back (I think the stock was around $13 then and is now about to hit or has hit $300), rescued the company, and the rest is history.

Apple, obviously, is Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs is Apple. But Sculley (pictured above next to a very young Jobs) was there for some important moments in Apple's history — the development of AppleTalk and of QuickTime, for instance — and, if you're at all a geek, this interview is an absolutely fascinating must-read.

Did the U.S. help Canada with UN vote on Security Council? Cannon responds

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has been in Brussels, Belgium at NATO headquarters attending meetings of foreign ministers there. During a conference call with reporters from Brussels Friday, Cannon was asked about a Fox News report that the U.S. failed to help Canada with what turned out to be its losing bid for a seat. You can listen to his response here:


During his time in Brussels, Cannon also had one-on-one meetings with:

  • United Kingdom foreign affairs minister William Hague
  • Romanian foreign miniser Theo Baconschi
  • NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen
  • Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd
  • Egyptian foreign minister Ahmad Abu Al Geit

"The most idiotic communications strategy yet devised by this PMO, and that’s saying something"

L. Ian MacDonald's current gig is editor of Policy Options but, back in the day, he worked for former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. And though relations between the old Mulroney gang and the current Stephen Harper gang can be occasionally bumpy, I think MacDonald is generally cheering for the blue team when push comes to shove.

But in his column in the Sun today, MacDonald says Harper's blue team had, this week, what amounted to its “worst day since his government took office four and a half years ago.” That would be Tuesday, when Canada lost, for the first time ever, a bid for a seat on the UN security council. That's bad enough, MacDonald writes, but then:

“To make a complete botch of the day, the damage control strategy of the Prime Minister’s Office was to blame the failure of the UN bid on Michael Ignatieff’s comments that Canada didn’t deserve a seat on the Security Council. From his dumb to their dumber.

This is the most idiotic communications strategy yet devised by this PMO, and that’s saying something.”

MacDonald has the full scorecard for Harper's dismal scorecard in today's paper.

Leading A1: Khadr's deal; a killer's pension; Maclean's in trouble again!

Nine Police Officers Suspended

A1 Headlines and Political Daybook

Khadr's deal; a killer's pension; Maclean's in trouble again! : Get a five-minute audio summary of what's on Friday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

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In new video, Ignatieff, "the small businessperson" pitches for his kind of Canada

The Liberal Party has just released a new video (below) featuring leader Michael Ignatieff, talking about himself, his relationship to his wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar, his parents, and his broad vision of what a federal government ought to do. There's the odd gentle barb, as well, about Stephen Harper and Jack Layton.

Some quick quotes from the 3:23-long English-language version:

“I've been a war correspondent .. I've lived the life almost like a small businessperson — living paycheque to paycheque. I'm proud that I've made it work.”

“[Zsohar] understands why I'm doing this. We're doing this together.”

“I'm not a career politician. Mr. Harper's done nothing else. Jack Layton has been a career politician all his life.”

As he travels on board the Liberal Express bus that visited nearly 150 communities over the summer, he says, “It's a great relief to be out of Ottawa. Journalists feed on politicians. Politicians feed on journalists and they send out the same cynical message that it's a game, that it's a close game and you don't get to play. The Canadian people want in.”

“If you're looking for a career standard politician, don't come to me. Come to the other guy.”

Topping A1 today: Chile's joy; Sick of Graham James; Eskimos brawl

Winnipeg Sun front page

A1 Headlines and Political Daybook

Chile's joy; Sick of Graham James; Eskimos brawl: Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Thursday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

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Harper marks 40 years of Canada-China relations

Here is the text of the speech Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to give in Ottawa today marking 40 years of Canada-China relations:

Merci beaucoup.

Et merci, Mme Hughes, de votre aimable présentation.

Special thanks also to the sponsors of this commemoration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and China.

Ambassador Lan,

distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

J'ai beaucoup de souvenirs inoubliables de ma visite en Chine l'an dernier.

I have many unforgettable memories of my visit to China last year.


Looking back on a very busy and productive tour, two moments in Shanghai stand out in my mind.

My wife Laureen and I visited the Yu Market, and stopped in at a tea shop. (left)

We also took in a view of the city’s famously futuristic skyline. (below)

I was impressed by the contrast between those two things,between the traditional and the super-modern.

It is one of the many signs of China’s richness – its magnificent cultural heritage and its vast future potential!

L’anniversaire d’aujourd’hui commémore notre patrimoine et notre potentiel communs.

C’est l’occasion de célébrer non seulement quarante années de relations diplomatiques,mais également un partenariat qui prend de l’ampleur et un brillant avenirpour nos deux pays.

As you know we were delighted to host President Hu Jintao here in Ottawa in June, prior to Toronto’s G-20 Summit.

At the dinner in his honour, I noted that the friendship tree he planted at Rideau Hall five years ago is healthy and growing.

In the years since it was planted, we have made great progress in working together for the benefit of both countries.

Our government has madesome 30 ministerial-level visits to China,and there have been three such visits in recent weeks alone.

La Chine est devenuepour le Canada le deuxième partenaire d’échange de marchandises et le troisième marché d’exportation.

Canadian exports to China have grown by four billion dollars …

… and, ladies and gentlemen, our total two-way trade is now valued at almost 51 billion dollars!

L’année dernière à Beijing, le président Hu et moi-même avons assisté à la conclusion d’ententes sur les changements climatiques, les ressources minières,la cultureet l’éducation agricole.

Nous avons réussià ouvrir les marchés chinois au porc canadien.

And, I am especially pleased to say, Canada was granted Approved Destination Status …

… something Canadian governments had sought for more than a decade; a change which will give a huge boost to our Canadian tourism industry!

Le président Hu et moi-même avons signé aussicet été à Ottawa d’autres ententes sur le tourisme,la protection de l’environnement, l’économie d’énergie et l’application des lois.

Nous avons convenu de hausser à soixante milliards de dollars nos échanges bilatéraux d’ici 2015.

President Hu and I Were also able to announce that China has granted staged access to Canadian beef – a welcome and extremely important development for our industry!skyline.jpg

In other words, In the context Of global economic developments, it is clear that the strategic partnership between Canada and China has never been more promising.

Our countries have both performed relatively well in the global recession, and we have been on the right sidein the crucial deliberations in the G-20 over the past two years.

Alors que le centre de gravité du monde économiquese déplace vers le Pacifique, nous sommes dans une position privilégiéepour coopérer afin de réaliserdes bénéfices mutuels.

As the structure Of the world economy changes,More and more, we are in a position to cooperate for our mutual benefit.

China needs a stable source of energy to fuel its continuing growth;

Canada is an emerging energy superpower.

Chinese companies look for the best places to do business;

Canada has low and falling tax rates, a low debt-to-GDP ratio, and an environment welcoming to foreign investment.

Chinese exporters seek fast and efficient access to North American markets;

Les ports canadiens de Vancouver et de Prince Rupert sont situés à deux et à trois jours de moins des principaux ports asiatiques, comme celui de Shanghai, que leurs rivaux américains.

And, ladies and gentlemen, Canada has committed more than a billion dollars to its Pacific coast trade infrastructure …

… We are providing the fastest way for Asian exporters to reach the heart of the North American marketplace!

The friendship between Canada and China has also grown in recent years in the context of a frank and respectful dialogue on the universal principles of human rights, and the rule of law.

Comme je l’ai dit l’année dernière à Shanghai,ce dialogue n’est pas un obstacle à la coopération économique.

En fait, selon notre expérience, les deux vont de pair; ils se renforcent mutuellement et consolidentles deux partenaires en retour.

Comme à tous les anniversaires, nous célébrons aujourd’hui nos réalisations et nous anticiponsles occasions à venir.

As you know, last week Ambassador Lan and Minister Bairdjoined civic and community leaders in opening the Chinatown Gateway here in Ottawa.

This beautiful structure, the newest monument in our nation’s capital, will remind us of our shared history.

As we celebrate this milestone,Let it also inspire us to move forward in friendship, for the good of our two great countries.

Merci beaucoup.

Thank you.


Rescue in Chile; UN failure; heading home to die

Le Journal de Montreal front page

A1 Headlines and Political Daybook

Rescue in Chile; UN failure; heading home to die : Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Tuesday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

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