Monday, February 1, 2016

Its finally here! Iowa Caucus Night 2016

After months of grueling, astonishing and absolutely insane politicking from the major party candidates in the United Sates, the Iowa caucuses have finally arrived. It is time to see who has the chops and who is full of hot air - well, honestly I think we already knew that, but its time to see what voters think about their prospective candidates among Republicans and Democrats in the first poll that counts.

Republican caucuses

I'm going to break from the pack and actually suggest something some people might say is crazy: Donald Trump will not win the Republican caucuses.

That's right, I said Trump won't win, and I think there is even a chance he will end up in third.

Here is how I think the Republican caucuses will go, with some general notions:

Cruz: 30%
Trump: 20-25%
Rubio: 20-25%
Paul: 5-10%
Bush: 5-10%
Carson: 5%
Christie: 5%
Huckabee, Fiorina, Kasich, et. al.: < 5%

Why do I see these results, or more in particular, why do I see Trump's position in danger?

Honestly the above result would not be an insane one. FiveThirtyEight has all the above in range, and the only result that is out of line with them is Rubio's, who I think has had his chances somewhat underestimated going into today. He will also benefit from any drop among the "establishment" candidates, such as Bush and Christie (maybe), while he has cast his net out to evangelicals as well and will surely benefit somewhat from that.

Cruz meanwhile has shown himself to have a strong organization, even if he has a tendency to shoot himself in the foot with it, and will benefit the most from any last minute surge among evangelicals or anti-Trump caucus goers by having the structures and people in place that can take advantage of it.

Trump is popular and will make an impact, to be sure. He could even win, but it would likely be a squeaker. The reason I doubt Trump's staying power has several parts: he is hated as much as he is loved, his core support relies among people who have either never caucused before or are apathetic, and he has a large array of forces against him, so large that I doubt anyone has ever seen something like it before - the only benefit for him being that they have yet to coalesce behind a single candidate.

More importantly, we can look at polling. For all of Trump's huge lead nationally, his polling numbers in Iowa remain dismal and barely outpaces Cruz. That speaks to some serious underlying doubts among voters about how popular he really is, and among Republican caucus goers who are an experienced and decisive bunch when push comes to shove, those doubts must be amplified tenfold.

And if people in Iowa doubt him now, if he loses how much will those doubts increase among everyone else?

As for the rest of the candidates, such as Bush and Carson, their dismal results will surely prompt some serious questions among their backers and donors. Carson is already in free fall, and I doubt we will see much of him past Iowa; while Bush, if he cannot get above 5%, will have wasted everyone's time and over $100-million of their money in a campaign that has gotten nowhere. Bush may yet come up above 10%, as John McCain did in 2008, and keep himself in the race; if not, then he will have a struggle to get to his home state of Florida where even the polls there look bad for him.

Iowa is a set up for New Hampshire at the end of the day. The primaries there will confirm the Iowa trend and set up the rest of the race, as it did in previous cycles - NH is where McCain thumped Romney and Iowa caucus winner Huckabee, Bush Sr. went on to crush Dole who won Iowa, and where Obama confirmed his surprise Iowa win wasn't just a fluke and he could be competitive with Clinton. If Trump ends up second or third after garnering so much attention as the frontrunner, I  expect him to falter even further in New Hampshire.

Democratic caucuses

On the Democratic side, the results are probably going to be less spectacular than some hope.

Like Trump, but less insane, Sanders is facing juggernaut, but unlike Trump the juggernaut is all behind one opponent: Clinton. While the Des Moines register poll put Sanders within striking distance, at the end of the day Sanders is going to end up fairing poorly.

Clinton: 55-60%
Sanders: 40-45%
O'Malley: < 5%

As much as I'd like to #FeeltheBern, it probably isn't going to happen. Insurgent candidacies have happened before on the Democratic side, the most obvious being Al Gore vs. Bill Bradley in 2000, where the insurgent Bradley quickly gained momentum on the 'inevitable' Gore in the lead up to the caucuses, with the polls showing him close behind - only to lose by nearly 30% when all was said and done.

Sanders does have a better chance to win New Hampshire, which is right next door to his home state of Vermont and where he probably has an extensive network, but if he can't win Iowa then he is unlikely to win much else.

Yes, Clinton was upset by Obama in 2008, we all know this story. At the end of the day however, Clinton was a much more flawed candidate back then and was not the clear leader. She traded first place with John Edwards and Obama in Iowa several times and never held a steady lead nationally either. This campaign is not analogous, and Sanders has a much farther hill to climb than Obama ever did.

Now, I could be wrong about all of this, but I don't think I will be however - I think the world is a lot more sane than it currently looks, and it will be borne out tonight.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Erin O'Toole - the hint is in the name

What is the sound of one hand clapping, Mr. O'Toole?

 Former Veterans Affairs Minister and current Conservative Public Safety critic Erin O'Toole (Durham) wants you to know that Trudeau should respect Canada's diverse economy, and not champion some sectors and 'demoralize' others.

Hey, that's all well and fine, I just wish the Honourable Mr. O'Toole would relay such sage advice back to his leadership, colleagues, and base of support, who all seem intent on pushing the pipelines through the heads of every other interested party - kind of "championing" the issue, no?

Well, actually O'Toole does the same thing, but that's only in the House, where no one will see him.

I mean honestly, the HuffPo article is not a bad one, and it is exactly the sort of thing that the Conservatives need to write to reach out to voters like me (well, not like me, because I can see through the bullshit, mostly) - I'm a pipeline guy, I like digging up resources and pumping them every which way, hooray!

However, Mr. O'Toole and the other tools in the Conservative caucus and beyond are hoping people forget their government's own record, which did not respect the diversified economy and did not respect diverse opinions. They had to have their power threatened in order to pump any stimulus into the economy and save the manufacturing jobs threatened by the Great Recession, and the Harper government and previous provincial Alberta PC governments did not exactly give good examples of diversification, unless your definition of that word is ensuring the Ethical Oil™ goes to market no matter who we have to call terrorists to get it there.

Do not even get me started on this stupid Conservative obsession with Trudeau's neat little quip about being "resourceful." They act like the guy declared war on the oil sands, instead of, you know like Mr. O'Toole has said, promoting DIVERSITY in the economy, because diversity means more than just having pipelines up the wazoo.

The Conservatives have a long way to go to seem credible again, and honestly, they need better O'Tooles than this if they're going to succeed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The "Coming to the Light" of the Conservative Party?

If you have followed the last few months in #cdnpoli, one of the most fascinating topics has been the Conservative Party of Canada's adjustment to the post-Harper era.

Indeed, interim leader Rona Ambrose and members of the party's younger generation, such as Michelle Rempel, Michael Chong, and Lisa Raitt, have practically fallen over themselves in an effort to exorcise the party's past positions on marijuana, same-sex marriage, useful data, and the MMIW inquiry.

This has arguably led many to ask what these people were doing when they were in government and their opposition to these government and party policies would have been useful. The answer to that is probably somewhere between "Harper made us do it" to "we kept getting elected on these positions," both cop outs but nevertheless true.

Regardless of what their reasons were before, they are taking steps now to realign the party in the direction they believe Canadians have gone. This is a good thing even if it is transparent as hell, but it shows the political maturing of a party whose basic attitude during their time in government can be summarized as mean-spirited. I think everyone can and should welcome the change of heart.

However, the question that should be on everyone's mind is whether the party's elites will be the ones to decide where the CPC is going. Its great to see the party's heavy-hitters seemingly come to the light, but are the party members going to follow suit?

As we've seen with the revolt against the party establishment to the south or the Wildrose Party's rejection of elite-driven moderation in 2014, the members of political parties are not necessarily ones to co-operate, especially when many are of the angry type.

Will members of the Conservatives fall in line with their leadership's moderation in the coming policy convention, where the same-sex marriage issue and discussion of the party's new stances will come up? Will members get revenge on the moderating elites by electing someone like O'Leary, the nutty outsider, or Jason Kenney, the socially conservative Harper protégé?

The moves made so far are all well and good, but the elites within the Conservative Party are not likely to have the last say. These sudden, jerky movements in directions very different from the previous leader, who like it or not was popular among the party's base, will create a backlash. If Ambrose and her cohorts go further, and start reversing course on hot issues like the Syrian refugees or the fight against ISIS, the backlash will take the party down hard, much to the glee of the Liberals like me but to the benefit of no one.

The Conservative Party, like their cousins in the Republicans or our cousins over in the UK Labour Party, are saddled with a nasty core that will not hesitate to lash out against what they perceive to the be spineless leadership. It hasn't worked out well for either party, and it won't work for the Conservatives.

Its up to Ambrose and this new generation to convince their core that their direction towards moderation is where the party needs to be - but can they? That is the question that needs to be answered by her and others in the months to come.

Moving the party away from the Harper era will take a lot more than the party elites making nice on various issues. It will take the entire party shifting its core away from the aggressive, dog-whistling paleo-conservative message of the last government and into the mainstream of Canadian society.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Missing the point: Pacific Centre edition

Holy hell, what a mess.

I know the adage that you should never read the comments section on news sites or YouTube, but with the Pacific Centre photographers still making the news, I couldn't help myself.

Today in the CBC article about a meeting with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, the comments section made me pull my hair out, with popular posts seemingly missing the entire point of why Robertson was there, or why what happened was wrong:

Everyone has read something like this. Yes, they could be trolls - then again, how many people in your own life say the same things? How many media personalities, politicians?

Here's the thing: I'm as liberal as the next PC-loving SJW, but I have zero problem with the police following up on suspicious activity. Taking photographs at a mall, some pointed towards doorways and such? That would raise some alarm bells for me - and yes, I know, the "they wouldn't have been suspicious if they were white!" line comes out often, and maybe that is true and if so its an issue that should be addressed, because terrorists come in every colour and belief. Then again, that doesn't excuse the fact that it is suspicious activity, and I'm happier knowing the police are following up.

That however has no bearing upon what the actual issue here is, which the above commenters seem to have failed to grasp - the police should do their job, civilians should not be doing the police's job.

These unblurred photographs were leaked - leaked, not released - to the media, specifically VancityBuzz, which then proceeded to blow up the entire internet. It made those men a target not just for police, but for any person who has been subjected to the whipped-up media frenzy about Islamic terrorists around every corner. The police were quick to grab these guys and then release a statement to the media clearing everything up - but I ask, did they do did so because of their activities, or because they felt the pressure from the scared masses and I'm sure just a little bit of concern about the safety of possibly innocent people?

The fault here is not what the police did - it is the out of control fourth estate. These media organizations, especially the public-freakin'-broadcaster, should know better than to trumpet the identities of "suspicious persons" to a frightened public when the police have not released it themselves. What judgement does some backroom editor have that an officer or detective does not that gives them the insight to think releasing the photos of innocent people is a good idea?

Oh I know - because "the public has a right to know," though that is actually just a dressed up phrase for what they really mean: "the public should be watching/reading about this story so we get money."

This is their business model, and its just one of the reasons I personally can no longer watch TV news, as it is solely designed to input raw emotion, oftentimes fear and concern. The commenters above say its actually all about "vigilance," but at what point does it become too much, and your vigilance turns into paranoia? The way the media designs these stories is to drive you towards becoming obsessed and paranoid, its how they hook their viewing audience into staying, because who doesn't want to memorize the faces of people trying to kill you?

The ironic part? The media, which loves to hate on Trump and his kooky followers, created these people. They're the ones who pumped the public so full of fear and suspicions that it has become acceptable for a major political figure to consider banning Muslim immigration, or for a governing party to set up a snitch hotline for "barbaric cultural practices." Then they hook the other half of the audience into their stories by talking about how terrible it all is.

This cycle needs to stop, before the next Muslim photographer ends up with a fate far worse than those men.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Will Kevin O'Leary become "Canada's Trump"?

"Yes, Mr. Bond, I do believe I can take over Canada."

The news so far in this latter week has been all-a-chatter about Kevin O'Leary. First it was for his attempt to buy the resignation of the Premier of Alberta in a coup-d'etat attempt reminiscent of the Business Plot, if not in style then at least in its ideological underpinnings; then for his toe-dipping into the Conservative leadership race immediately after.

This prompted the guffaws of some people, the consternation of others, while yet more quietly stoked the flames. Kevin O'Leary has been inspired in his political endeavours by his fellow entrepreneurial traveller in the United States, Donald Trump, who is currently wiping the floor of the Republican Party with establishment candidates who are far more experienced in the ways of governance than he. Could the same situation come true for O'Leary?

Now, I'm not saying O'Leary is a bigot like Trump acts. I very much doubt he is in his heart, but then again I also doubt Trump is as well - after all, Trump is a showman first and foremost, just like O'Leary. His appeal to the supposedly besieged base of America is just that, an appeal, a show of comraderie designed to get the Donald to where the Donald needs to be, but I doubt the man holds any serious convictions aside from money and ego.

I view O'Leary in much the same way. He's a showman, and quite good at it. He's a straight talkin', no-holds-barred capitalist who values access to money over anything else, and isn't afraid to tackle those politicians (spit!) who get in the way of it.

Given that overriding goal, I can easily see O'Leary parroting Trump in style, if not exactly in substance - up until a certain point. He will bang the drum of economic failure, blame it on Trudeau, Notley, Wynne and so on ("liberal economic failures"), and along with that anti-establishment, anti-politician movement will come the less attractive segments of society. O'Leary, if he wanted to continue being the head of said movement, will have to cater eventually, and I have no doubts he would.

The question is then would he ever find such a movement in Canada to be the head of? We're still two years (probably) out from a Conservative leadership race, even longer from a federal election, so much can change - but currently I would say, no.

Trump's rise was born out of the general frustrations of much of the lower middle class US, most of them white with little if any formal education and probably a lot of household debt and stress. They feel a general malaise in their lives and project that on America writ large, and Trump's appeals about "making America great again" are as much about the country's foundering, if still steady, status as the world superpower as it is the personal lives of millions of Americans. Trump is about fixing things, no bullshit, no pussyfooting around sensitive topics, just fix it - that is his appeal.

In Canada, we don't have a similar group for O'Leary to take hold of, not at the moment anyway. The low price of oil putting thousands out of work, the sky-high cost of living in Ontario for homeowners, and the fears of a coming economic crash could work to build this group up. Could progressive politicians stop O'Leary if it did, considering how many are currently in power? I'm not so sure.

However, the main thing stopping O'Leary would not be the Liberals or NDP, but the Conservative Party itself. Establishment Conservatives would probably freak out at the mere thought of O'Leary winning, and the implications of it (especially if Trump falters in the coming months). They would have the advantage though, as O'Leary would be competing in a much different field than Trump or Rob Ford - a closed-door party convention where committed, paid members vote, rather than the more open primaries and caucuses seen in the US, or the wide-open field of Toronto's municipal elections. Conservative members would be deciding who wins, and I doubt the CPC is looking at replicating the Supporters category the Liberals had in 2013 (especially if an O'Leary or Ford is in the field).

So, Trump madness is probably not coming to Canada in the form of Kevin O'Leary, and if it does it will likely be quickly shut out by the still-robust Conservative establishment. Things can always change of course, but I don't think we need to worry for now.

For now.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Blog Awakens

So, after months of campaigning, successfully, the Liberal Party is now back in government. Hooray!

We have a Prime Minister we can be proud of. I have a Member of Parliament who is going to go far. And my little Liberal life probably couldn't be better.

So, five months after shutting the blog down, things are going pretty well. What need would there be for me to restart it?

I'll tell you why: #bill6. Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2016. Electoral reform and the (current) lack of a referendum. Conservative leadership. Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever the hell this is.

There is so much going on in the news right now, and there is a lot that still concerns me. I might live in a Liberal country and province, but that doesn't mean things are automatically superb. There are things to be talked about, and by golly, I'm gonna talk about them.

Also, I'm incredibly attached to the blog's name.

There we are. Welcome back, blog. I missed you.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

End of an Era, Beginning of a New One

It's time to finally lay to rest Blunt Objects.

I've had a lot of fun on this site, there is no doubt about that, but it is time I moved on. I'm not moving very far, mind you, but still - moving on.

I started this blog several years ago as an outlet for my burgeoning political ideas. It turned into that and more, introducing me to the wonderful world of polling and being able to swear publicly at the Prime Minister. I've had a lot of great posts on here... and some crappy ones, but at the end of the day, I wrote something, and I feel as if it was worth my time, and I hope it was worth yours as well.

I will no longer be writing on here, however. Its time to shut this blog down. I hope to keep it up as an archive, but if it goes on too long and I can't keep people from commenting on it or so on, I will eventually end up deleting it entirely - though I'll download all of it first. ;)

But, as I said, I'm not going far. I hope that some of my readers who may come across this site will visit my new blog at hopefully to have its own domain one day,  we'll see. What is this new blog, you probably aren't going to ask? Its a blog on historical Canadian elections, delving into the research on them and discussing what went down in some of the most crucial, yet overlooked, elections in history. I'll also probably delve into contemporary politics here and there as well, so if you ever miss my snark, come see it there.

Otherwise, its been great, and thank you to everyone who ever bothered to read my ramblings! I hope you got some worth out of it. I also want to thank my co-blogger Nick "Teddy" Boragina, who has moved away this summer but I hope will be back into the swing of things soon enough. Nick is an excellent writer and analyst, and when he does come back, I may do up another post here just so I can point you guys towards any projections he is doing.

Oh, and of course - good luck in #elxn42!