Saturday, December 26, 2015

Is the US heading towards a Civil War?

A simple question, but an answer that's perhaps not so simple.

In the 1800's there was an issue that divided the public, that of slavery. The US avoided a war because the two main parties were both divided over the issue. That changed in the late 1850's, and early 1860's when the parties themselves changed. Those Democrats who opposed slavery abandoned the party to support the new Republican Party, while members of the Whigs also joined the Republicans, with pro-slavery Whigs ending up in the Democrats. This gave the US a 2 party system, where each party had a clear majority of members who were willing to fight and die over this single, important issue. The result was civil war.

Today, many look at politics, and see that we have no over-riding issue, and two mainstream parties that have good relations with one another, and no desire to escalate things.

The reality is that for the past 20 years, the Republican Party has been moving, slowly but steadily, to the right. Recently, the Democratic Party has responded, and this creates a problem. Just as voters influence their parties, parties influence their voters. More and more, people in the US are moving away from the centre, and are moving towards dual-peak politics. This is not about disagreements between the party brass of one side with the brass of the other; it's a grassroots hate.

Here's the problem. Things do not appear to be changing, nor, is there any reason to think they will change any time soon. The two parties will continue to move further and further away from one another. This is not simply a problem is ideology, it's a problem of thought.

Consider; for example, climate change. Lets create a fantasy world to help us examine this. In this world there are two countries, one is full of people who believe in climate change, and the other is not. The problem is that first country is near sea level, and will be drowned by rising seas. The second country, thinking that all of this is nonsense, continues to dump pollution into the air. This, is a recipe for war. It becomes, truly, life or death, and about survival.

Fortunately, at this time, there is no one single issue that both sides are willing to die over, but when you have a split so great that people live in different realities (including one where thousands of muslims were celebrating 9-11 in the USA) it does not take long before some future issue can turn into something worth fighting over.

There are still a number of ways to avoid a civil war.

1 - The easiest way to solve this is to create a new political party. The fact that the 2 parties in a 2 party system are so far from one another is what fuels this. Creating a third party, one that find itself in a better consensus with the public is perhaps the best way to avoid these problems. There are ways to get here, and issues that may help. The idea behind a basic income is something that, if proposed by a libertarian, could end up with enough support on both the right and the left to support it's own party.

2 - A more difficult, but perhaps more politically plausible way to deal with this is to have the two parties stop their movement away from one another. This will depend on changing the rhetoric. We need to stop viewing those from the other party as "evil". This started with Bill Clinton and his infidelity. In response, George W Bush was made out of be the devil himself by many on the left. Obama now is seen as some kind of communist muslim by many on the right. If we are to heal this rift, we need to stop this nonsense.

3 - Time. It will be at least 15 years, likely 20, before this even becomes possible. That is much time to find another way to resolve this. We won't be seeing any US civil war prior to 2030. Simply sit and think what you were doing in 2000 to realize how long of a time that actually is. Time can solve this problem, and hopefully, will.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Spanish Election, Results

Earlier this week, Spain went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The results, to say the least, are inconclusive.

123 - PP
90 - PSOE
69 - P
40 - C's
28 - Others

Neither the "right" nor "left" coalitions can obtain a majority. In fact, there are only 3 realistic options going forward.

1 - Minority
It seems likely this will be what happens, PP will govern without a majority. PP has a Senate majority; though the Senate in Spain is pretty toothless.

2 - Grand Coalition
This would see PP and PSOE. The problem here is PSOE. Each of the provinces (much much weaker compared to our provinces) has it's own local branch of the party. It's leaders are known as "Barons". The Party Barons are not very happy with how the national party is being run, and many of them are just waiting for the party to try to form a grand coalition so they can pounce and take the party over. For this reason, such a coalition is unlikely.

3 - Large Coalition
Given how many various combinations have been ruled out; the only other coalition that is truly possible, PSOE, with P and C's. There are clear problems here, not the least of which is that such a coalition would be extremely unstable. In addition, P is very friendly towards regionalists, and about a third of their seats actually belong to regional sister parties. As such, any coalition with P has the potential to fracture in any coalition. Not to mention that C's has ruled out being the Jr partner in any coalition, something difficult to not do in a 3 party coalition where they make up only 1/5th of the seats.

Hence, it's likely that we are looking at a minority, with PP looking to other parties on an issue by issue basis.

This means another election in 2016. Avoiding one would require some sort of deal (short of a coalition) between PP and PSOE. This is possible, but not a guarantee.

So what's possible in a 2016 election?

PP could lose more support in such an election; especially among those who had hoped they could lead a government. C's is the most likely benefactor of such a move. This would see voters move from a PP they thought could be in government; a party that is too reviled to truly be in a government, into votes for C's, a party that might make it in government.

PSOE is also in danger of losing support, but this time, to P. While the recent corruption scandal has focused mostly on PP, PSOE has faced it's own corruption problems in the past. It is logical that voters would move away from PSOE to P in order to protest corruption.

P has the most to gain from a new election. Not only could they gain PSOE voters, but so long as they are not stupid during this parliamentary term, this is quite possible. In fact, they could also gain more votes from C's, which I will examine in the next section. P could easily become the largest party, and while we are still far from a majority, giving the party a dozen or two extra seats would certainly make a huge difference.

C's has the most to lose. As the 4th placed party, voters may decide that C's can not win, and hence, switch to other options. C's and P actually share voters; despite how far left P is. This is because both are the "new" parties, Unless C's can convince voters they are useful - despite doing poorly, they are in real danger. The "best" hope for C's is that both old parties fall into decline, and that the total of P and C's seats, combined, is a majority.

Regardless, the election has not provided much of an answer to the question of what is next. We will have to keep our eyes on things to see where they go from here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spanish Election, Intro

On the 20th of December, Spain goes to the polls to elect a new Parliament.

There are four main parties contesting the election, that occupy 4 unique spots on a particular political spectrum.

Two of these parties are "new" while two are "old". Two are "left" and two are "right".

Of course, it's more complicated than this, with nuance, but I am not here to be the be-all end-all of your knowledge of politics in Spain, I am here to keep you up to date on what is going on, and to provide you with an introduction to something you might not otherwise be aware.

PP is the traditional right-wing party. PSOE is the traditional left. The two parties have dominated since Spain's return to Democracy - excepting a short run by UCD, which was replaced in it's role as the capitalist party by what later became the PP.

Both C's and P are a big step to the left compared to PP and PSOE. Thus C's is much more centrist, and P is much more "far left". These are the new parties. Neither ran a single candidate in the last election.

P is equal to SYRIZA in Greece - in some ways - while C's is much more of a small l "liberal" party.

Despite that, you could think of both PSOE and P as "Left" and C's and PP as "Right".

PP meanwhile is mired in controversy about corruption, while PSOE has not come off without a bit of dirt either. PP is hated among many, but still manages a plurality in most polls.

Polls suggest the results may looks like this:

115 - PP
80 - PSOE
75 - P
55 - C's
25 - Others

There is a great deal of fluidity between P and C's and those parties may end up taking two dozen more or fewer seats, while the PP and PSOE vote seems more stable.

The problem is forming a coalition.
C's does not want to be the "Jr. Partner" in a coalition, and would likely demand to be treated equally, something difficult if they end up with as low as 55 seats.
Both PSOE and P refuse to sit with PP in coalition.

It is possible, then, that we could see a PSOE-P-C's coalition. This would be very unstable.

In the end, we do know a few things for sure.

1 - No one party will take a majority.
It would require a huge shift for any party to take a majority, and the only party that is really in any position to do is is PP. They'd need to convince people that all the 3 other options are so scary that they need to vote PP; difficult to do when you are scary yourself due to corruption.

2 - Coalitions are likely to be unstable.
This is not a guarantee. The most stable coalition, given everything, would be PSOE and C's. The problem is the polls suggest both parties are trending down. If, however, they manage a combined majority, they could form a government that could be somewhat stable.

Another interesting possibility is a coalition between C's and P. Again; this would require a bit of a shift from current polls, but it could happen. If it does it would indicate a true change in the political climate of Spain, as you'd have a government that completely throws out the old two parties.

On Sunday we will find out how things have turned out; and I will make another post to update you on the results.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Alternate History: 1988 NDP #2

This Alternate History is actually one of the easier ones to achieve.

Just prior to the 1988 debate there was a real movement within the top levels of the Liberal Party to replace John Turner with Jean Chretien. The executive had the power to do so, and were debating doing so. At the time the Liberals were near 20% in the polls, whereas polls suggested if Chretien were leader, the party would be doing better. Eventually the executive (rightly) decided that switching leaders mid election would be looked at poorly by voters. Luckily for the Liberals, the 1988 debate featured exchanges over Canada's participation in Free Trade with the United States, and the Liberals jumped from 20% to 45% literally overnight. The party could not maintain this position, and dropped back to second, finishing the election as the Official Opposition.

The NDP meanwhile had been doing very well in the polls, actually polling in first for part of 1987. This was important. The last time the NDP, or any of it's predecessor parties had polled in or near first was in 1943 when the CCF managed a first placed position in a Gallup poll. During 1987 many polls confirmed the NDP's position in first. The only other time the NDP managed multiple first place results in polls was in the 2011-2015 period.

1988 was the first real chance the NDP had to finish in second, and had Turner's debate performance not been so strong, they may well have done so. Regardless, when facing off against Chretien, we could have seen the following:

Chretien actually loses his own riding to the NDP. Not only did the NDP have a strong candidate here, but this is realistic given the expected backlash against swapping leaders. This keeps the Tories in government, but allows the NDP to form a strong official opposition of a bit less than 80 seats, while the Liberals are down closer to 30.

With Broadbent, a moderate, as NDP leader, this would likely have meant we'd see an NDP government in 1993; however I will save multiple-election Alternate History posts for later on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2016 Republican Primaries

You'll notice the title of this implies I will only be making one post about the entire USA Republican Primaries for 2016.

This is correct.

I do not follow US politics. One of the key reasons is politics in the US is more about personality and less about policy. More about controversy and less about the team.

I am planning quite the detailed post about accountability and political parties; the USA with it's nearly nonexistent party discipline is one of the key examples of this. Regardless

There are only a few key people in the race at this time. Two of the top attention getters are Ben Carson, and Donald Trump. I'll address the latter later on. Carson has a big problem, he can't control the things that come out of his mouth. Contrast this with Trump who says his stupid stuff on purpose, Carson just seems to babble without any thought. Carson is not stupid, he's a brain surgeon, but he certainly sounds stupid, and his inability to reign in his psychopathic babbling is what will prevent him from ever becoming President.

There are some serious contenders who have not had as much media attention who could actually win. Jeb, Rubio, and Cruz. Of these, Cruz seems to have the edge at this time. Cruz could mount a serious campaign for president from the right, and would have libertarians backing him up. I would not under-estimate his ability to campaign. Rubio and Jeb are more friendly towards the bulk of the Republican Party, and would have support from those quarters.

There are also a few dark horse candidates. Either they could be convinced to enter the race to save the party from the low quality field, or, they could see a sudden surge after sitting so low in the polls. They include, but are not limited to, Christie, Fiorina, Graham, Huckabee, Paul, Santorum, and Mitt Romney. One, and only one of these could see their fortunes rise in the early part of the new year if people are not satisfied with the other options.

In the end, there is only room for one "Moderate". Rubio and Jeb both play that role in this context, and one will need to be ahead of the other to take on that role. At this time, Rubio has the lead, though Jeb has the better long-term organization, and that could change. Jeb has the money and the people, and my gut says he may well become the standard bearer for the "Moderates"

Cruz meanwhile is very likely to become the standard bearer for the more right-wing elements within the party. There is a good chance Cruz walks away with the nomination, and I would not bet against such a thing.

In the end it all comes down to one problem; Donald Trump.

Simply, Trump is an idiot. He's not stupid, but he is an idiot. The biggest problem for Trump is himself. Donald Trump is similar to John Tory in that he feels he does not need to listen to advice. Because of this, Trump just says whatever he wants to. Unlike Carson, this is intentional. Trump is not the kind to come to a campaign meeting of the top brass an admit he should not have said something, he's the type of blame the media for covering it wrong.

Because of this, Trump actually can not win the presidency at this time as the Republican candidate. No matter who is opponent is, in a two-way race, he can't win. As such, we have a few scenarios for how all of this plays out.

1 - People within the Republican party realize Trump is an idiot and abandon him for Ted Cruz. Cruz wins the nomination and goes on to the Presidential race, where he is defeated by a Democrat.

2 - People within the Republican Party realize Trump and his ideas are crazy, and abandon him for Rubio or Jeb. Jeb then goes on to challenge the Democrats, but loses in the end.

3 - Trump decides to run for a third party. The Republicans simply choose someone else, and both that person and Trump lose to the Democratic nominee.

4 - Worst Case Scenario. Trump goes 3rd party, but Jeb or another moderate wins the Republican nomination. Jeb campaigns from the centre, and Trump campaigns from the right. This would require Sanders as the Democratic nominee, but in short, you split the votes and the EC in just the right way so that the election is thrown to the house; but Trump, with support of the right-wing of the Republican Party, is somehow able to cobble a victory out of this, and you end up with Trump as President.

This is all I will have to say about the Republican Primaries. I may have comments about the Democratic primaries, or, another comment about the Presidential race itself; but that would be months from now.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Alternate History: 1993, NDP in Quebec

This one took quite some time to work on. In particular, because getting to this point is not easy. I will present the map now and explain some of the difficulties:

The NDP can win in Quebec in 1993. They need a few things to happen, some that I outlined earlier. First, we need the PQ to oppose the creation of any Bloc Quebecois. Secondly, we need the NDP to be openly friendly towards Quebec nationalism and sovereigntism.

This means the original BQ MP's do not defect to start a new party, they defect to the NDP. This would, of course, lower NDP support in anglo Canada, but after research, I've come to the conclusion that the NDP's awful result in 1993 was their floor. As such, despite them being tarred as "seppie", they would still win their 9 anglo seats.

One thing I simply could not avoid is a stronger PC presence within Quebec. While the sovereigntist movement is mostly left, there is a right presence, and there would simply be people in Quebec who are unwilling to vote NDP, despite being sovereigntist. We also end up with a stronger Liberal party due to the vote splits.

In the end, this does make some significant changes. First, without any Bloc, Reform takes the official opposition. Next, both the NDP and Tories have the 12 seats they need for official party status. This likely wouldn't make for much of a difference in the results of the 1995 referendum, but the referendum would certainly have a huge impact on the NDP. I can't see the NDP winning many, if any anglo seats in 1997 with a majority of their caucus supporting a Oui vote. In addition, it's quite likely that a Quebec MP would take over the party. In short, while this alternate history would give the NDP more seats in one election, it could well spell the death of that party.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Alternate History: Prime Minister Mulcair

In order to get here, we simply remove Justin Trudeau. Perhaps he takes a different career path and does not enter politics, or perhaps he is an MP but does not run for the Liberal leadership. Regardless, to have an NDP victory, we need to have another person as Liberal leader.

For my money, the best bet is Bob Rae, and that he broke his promise to not run for the full leadership after becoming interim. Rae has too much baggage (especially if he adds to it by snatching the leadership after saying he wouldn't) and would not connect the same way Trudeau did.

As such, the "story of the election" would simply see the NDP maintain it's lead, and not bleed support away to the Liberals. In fact, the opposite should happen, with Liberals going NDP to stop Harper from getting another term.

There are three provinces where the Liberals can expect to do "well". I use that term with caution, I don't mean they'll gain seats, or even hold seats. I mean they "won't be annihilated". These provinces are BC, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. All 3 have reasons to oppose Harper (because he's Harper and needs to go) but all 3 also have concerns about the NDP (because they are the NDP and scary). One problem, though, is BC has another alternative; the Greens, and as such, much of that Liberal vote, will tilt towards the Green Party.

Going Province by Province...


Despite what I said, the Liberals won't win any seats here. Their strength is their weakness. The fact that people in BC want "a 3rd option." Without a good Liberal leader, more votes would bleed off to the Greens. So much that I can see the Green Party doing very well. As you see on the map, I've given them 6 seats, but in reality, they might have only taken 2 on Vancouver Island, with the other 2 going NDP, and the 2 Mainland seats going Tory.


Here we have the NDP sweeping New Brunswick. While that may seem crazy, the reality is that the vote distribution within the province allows for this. You'll notice the NDP has been adjusted down slightly in NS, but not by much, and has been adjusted in Newfoundland as well. Part of the reason for the latter is that the increase for the Liberals in the province was tied, partly, to Trudeau. (Also included are the final result totals)


Not much to say here. The Liberals do alright in Winnipeg, while the NDP does rather well by comparison.


The NDP had quite a concentration of vote in Edmonton, and as a result, would have been able to win a fair number of seats in the city had they retained their lead over the Liberals.


Here we have the NDP sweeping the province with only the Tories really in place to stop them.

And yes, that's a Conservative win in Dion's riding, and no, I didn't accidentally colour in the wrong riding, and yes, they win that before Lac Saint Louis, and no, that is also not a mistake. The Tories have been increasing their support in St.Laurent for some time, and if that trend continues, it could become a real target for them in a future election.


We round off the projection with Ontario.

Oddly, the NDP would win more seats (compared to the Tories) outside the GTA as opposed to inside it. This, I think, shows the odd interplay when comparing the NDP vs Liberal vote.

In the end we are left with a small but stable NDP majority, a strong Conservative opposition, a very weak Liberal party, a 2 seat Bloc Quebecois, and a 6 seat Green Party that finally has a caucus too large to fit into a single hybrid sedan.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Alternate History - a stronger NDP

Our first Patreon request.

I was asked to look at possible alternate history results where the NDP did better than they did in real history. To do that, I want to look at three possibilities.

First, 1988.
During that election, the Liberals nearly screwed the pooch by switching leaders mid-election just prior to the debate. The debate where Turner took the party from 21% to 45% in the polls. The idea was the executive would replace Turner with Chretien in a vain hope to not lose everything. This would be horrible for the party, and there is enough 'evidence' of it that we can consider it real.

As such the 1988 alternate history will look at the possibility that the NDP, not the Liberals, would have managed an official opposition in that election.

Second, 1993.
I'm not going to connect the two officially, but, in short, to get here, we need to ensure that someone friendly to Quebec wins the leadership. We will also need to assume that the party makes a sherbrooke-like declaration. We also would need to neuter the Bloc Quebecois. To do this, I'm going to presume that the PQ intervenes and quashes any Bloc in it's early stages, meaning many of the future Bloc MPs end up joining the NDP.

Finally, 2015.
It may be "too soon" for the supporters of the NDP, but the reality is that 2015 was the best chance for the NDP to form government, ever. In this scenario, I will look at what would have happened if they had done so, and to get there, I again need to change the Liberal Leader. I will presume, simply, that either Justin Trudeau does not run. I could look at what would have happened if he had joined the NDP, but that would require a more radical change, so I will not do so.

These "stories" will come out over the next few days, with maps, and context.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Venezuela election

A short post.

Venezuela held a parliamentary election on the 6th. The final results are becoming concrete, and are good news for those who dislike Hugo Chavez.

MUD, the anti-chavez alliance has managed to win 110 seats, while PSUV, the party of Chavez, has won 55 seats. 2 seats are yet to be declared.

Despite being described as a right-wing alliance, MUD is actually a huge union of over a dozen parties. In the outgoing parliament, the alliance held 64 seats, 45 of those seats (over 70%) were held by 4 parties. Looking at those 45 seats...

6 were held by COPEI. COPEI is a christian democratic party, and as such, is centre-right.

11 were held by Justice First, another centre-right party.

13 were held by Democratic Action, a member of Socialist International, and a centre-left party.

15 were held by A New Era, another centre-left party.

The smaller parties held a similar distribution. On the whole, the alliance is fairly centrist, but contains a wide range of views.

There are a few important points to take away from this election

1 - This is a defeat of PSUV, and President Maduro, the successor to Chavez.

2 - This is a reaction to the economic difficulties in the country.

3 - The election was less "won" and more "lost", it was a desire for change.

4 - There is far more going on than I've been able to go into here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Newfoundland, seen in other ways

I've created a new 'electomatic' using the 2015 election results, and have tinkered with it to show where the parties stand, by adjusting the province-wide popular vote. For example this:

Shows what ridings would have been won if it had been the NDP, not the Tories, that became the official opposition with 7 seats.

Here are more maps!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Newfoundland results map

Just a quick map showing the results of the NL election.

The PC Party did better than I expected. I'll examine why that might be in a later post; I will try to get a guest poster for some or all of that.