Model Democracies or Democracies in Deficit? The United States and Canada after U.S. Elections
On November 13, 2012, the Transatlantic Academy hosted “Model Democracies or Democracies in Deficit? The United States and Canada after U.S. Elections,” a conference held with the Munk School of the University of Toronto. Scholars from the Transatlantic Academy, Munk School, and other guests analyzed the reasons for President Barack Obama’s re-election victory, the path forward for the country and for the Republican Party, and democratic deficits in the United States as well as Canada.
The first panel focused on the U.S. election. Carl Cannon, Washington Editor for RealClearPolitics, argued that the election was not decided solely on the economy but on a variety of factors, from ethnic pride to national security to cultural issues, and that the country is changing and the Republican Party must adjust to keep pace. Randall Hansen of the Munk School focused on immigration and the decisive role of Latinos in the election, describing in detail the challenges Republicans will have in repairing their image among Latino voters. Christian Wernicke, a correspondent for Süddeutsche Zeitung, noted that roughly half of all Americans now live in counties that vote in “landslides” for one party and argued that Congress, commonly criticized for being dysfunctional, is actually merely reflecting the country’s broader political polarization.
In the second panel, on democratic deficits in the U.S. and Canada, Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution, co-author of the recent bestseller It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, outlined his argument that America’s disabling polarization is asymmetric as the Democrats have been a fairly pragmatic center-left party since 1992 while the Republicans have tended to be more radical. Kent Weaver of Georgetown University discussed ways in which economic troubles can exacerbate political polarization, as has been seen in recent years in the United States. Richard Simeon of the University of Toronto turned the discussion to Canada and noted that the relatively unchecked power of the prime minister in the Canadian system helps avoid gridlock, though some in the past have said this amounts to an “elected dictatorship.” Peter Loewen of the University of Toronto discussed the increasing polarization of Canadian politics, and the role of the social-democratic New Democratic Party as the primary opposition and weakening the long-powerful Liberal Party. Janice Stein of the Munk School at the University of Toronto discussed the phenomenon of “consumer politics” in Canada, and pointed out that an increasing orientation to the Asia-Pacific has helped Prime Minister Harper win votes particularly among immigrant communities.
9:15-9:30 am Welcome: Stephen Szabo, Executive Director, Transatlantic Academy and Janice Stein, Director, The Munk School, University of Toronto
9:30-11:00 am The U.S. Elections: What Happened, Why, and Implications for American Democracy
Moderator: David Cameron, Transatlantic Academy and University of Toronto
Carl Cannon, RealClearPolitics
Bruce Stokes, The Pew Center for Politics and the People
Randall Hansen, The Munk School, University of Toronto
11:00-11:15 am Coffee Break
11:15-1:00 pm Democratic Deficits in Canada and the United States
Moderator: Sylvia Bashevkin, University of Toronto
Tom Mann, Brookings Institution
Janice Stein, The Munk School, University of Toronto
Peter Loewen, University of Toronto
Kent Weaver, Georgetown University
Richard Simeon, University of Toronto