Why, as a Canadian, I Really Care About the US Election

bernie sanders

It’s something I have been asking myself for the past few months: Why, as a lifelong Canadian, do I care so much about the current US election?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a bit of a political junkie and I also write about politics, so American presidential elections always interest me. But never this much and never this early.

Sure, when the parties pick their candidates and the election looms, I’ll watch the debates and tweet about things like “binders full of women.” I’ll even find a bar to watch the results on election night.

But this year, I have been glued to the primaries, refreshing the page as results come in and once even watched CNN and was incredibly amused and confused by how caucuses operate (they’re flipping coins, really?).

Why do I care? After some reflection, it comes down to two people and none of them are Donald Trump.

It’s Not the Circus, It’s the Substance

When it comes to politics, one thing I have always enjoyed is the spectacle. The theatre of the whole thing. Yes, I know that they are talking about serious issues, but seeing as how I have never believed that any prominent candidate would ever be able to or want to change how things run, I have settled for watching their rise to the top as sport and trying to guess the outcome in the same light.

Things are different this time. I believe that Bernie Sanders wants to make things better. He doesn’t just say the sort of things that please my progressive sensibilities; he has been saying them for over 30 years.

I was really taken aback when I saw a video from the late 80s of Sanders talking about his ideal President. He used many of the same lines that are a key part of his stump speech today. So he didn’t just grab those ideas and talking points from the Occupy Movement afterall.

This isn’t a case of a candidate catching up to what the voters want and emulating it. Instead, the voters have finally caught up with the candidate.

That is something truly revolutionary. While the spectacle remains with the Republicans, the substance is with Bernie. Though I have to admit, the bird landing on his podium was probably the most spectacular piece of unexpected and improvised political theatre I have seen in a long time.

So that’s why I have been following so closely, reading the polls, getting annoyed every time Hillary Clinton or her supporters tried to block the Sanders surge. Hell, I even joined the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash on Facebook.

Well, Bernie’s authenticity is one of the reasons. The other is a little closer to home.

What this Election Means for the Canadian Left

It’s no secret that the election of a new US President has a profound impact well beyond the 50 states. A change of face and possibly direction in the world’s one remaining economic, cultural and military superpower always has an effect around the world and here in Canada, too.

But that’s not why I care so much this time. I am far less interested in the relationship our current Prime Minister will have with the next POUTS than I am with the effect a potential Sanders victory will have on the left in Canada.

One of his better moments: Tom Mulcair speaking out against Bill C-51 in the rain
One of his better moments: Tom Mulcair speaking out against Bill C-51 in the rain (photo: Toronto Star)

If the Empire itself, a country that can generously be described as center-right by and large, can elect a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist as their President, then what place does the NDP, supposedly the most progressive party in Canada, a center-left country, have removing the word socialism from their party platform?

Moreover, if the unapologetically left approach the Sanders Campaign has employed eventually moves him into the White House, there will be no more justifiable electoral reasons for the NDP to remain silent on issues that speak to their left flank.

Not only does Bernie Sanders welcome the support of Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner, he put her in an ad. He also didn’t stop BLM activists from taking the microphone at one of his rallies. Meanwhile, Tom Mulcair’s NDP remained silent during Quebec’s student protests in 2012, even when the movement was threatened with massive police repression and draconian laws.

What were they afraid of? That they would be tagged with embracing protest? Well, one of the images that improved Bernie Sanders’ rep among voters was the one of him being personally arrested at a civil rights protest in the 60s:

bernie sanders arrest

Also, while Mulcair campaigned for a $15/hr wage for federal employees, Sanders wants to make that a reality for everyone in the US. When our own left-leaning party is more cautious than a potential Democratic Party nominee for President, it makes me wonder.

The Change is Happening

Admittedly, Mulcair has been talking tougher lately, as his leadership review is approaching. He tweeted #ibelievesurvivors just before the Gomeshi verdict was announced, is arguing for democratic socialism and has openly called Donald Trump a fascist.

It makes me wish that this was the Mulcair we got during the campaign and during his tenure as Opposition Leader. Sure, he was strong in his opposition to C-51 and in a few other ways, but overall he refused to embrace the radicalism that was at the base of his party.

Whether Mulcair remains NDP leader or not, the change in the party’s approach to big issues has already begun, and that’s thanks to the influence of the success Sanders has had so far. Imagine what the NDP will be courageous and principled enough to campaign on next time if Bernie is President.

So why do I care so much about the next US Election? It’s because of two people: Bernie Sanders and Tom Mulcair.

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