What BC By-elections and Iowa Caucus Results Have in Common





By Harvey Oberfeld

Keeping It Real…

February the 3rd, 2016


Political junkies love elections: they can be so exciting … whether they take place at home, in other provinces, in states south of the border, in Canada or the U.S. or even in other countries.

How interested or worked up we get depends on the stakes as we perceive them, as we personally are impacted, or as they affect other provinces, states or countries that interest us.

I think about all that as I assess the outcome of this week’s two BC by-elections and the American primary results in Iowa.

I enjoyed it all … the drama, the outspoken political rivalries, the spins, the emotions, the partisan enthusiasm, the political involvement of all the volunteers, the campaign strategists, the media reporters and analysts … and, most of all, the voters who cared enough to take part.

But let’s keep it real.

In terms of IMPACT or EFFECT overall or in the long term, it reminds me of that quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

OK…we can hopefully forget the idiot part: I am but a blogger!  🙂  And although I wouldn’t say the signify “nothing” , the truth is, in the overall picture, they signify very little.

The TRUTH is … two by-elections and one, two, three or four caucus primary vote results more often than not count for almost nothing in the long game or actual selection or election processes that take place several months or a year from now.

In fact, by-elections often go against whichever party is in power: people are usually not impressed or happy with governments over a whole number of issues and by-elections give us a chance to “send a message” … without actually tossing them out; government promises, bribes and tax cuts etc. never flow generously in by-elections; and the campaign ads/spending etc. don’t flow anywhere close (thankfully!) to the levels we see at election time.

American primary elections are different … but only to some extent: the millions of bucks DO flow there; the Superpacs (what an AWFUL way to circumvent election spending rules!) DO spend millions; the campaigning does involve the aspring TOP party leaders; and the media … state-wide, nationally and internationally … cover the event almost 24-7.

In Iowa, the TOTAL turnout for both the Democratic and Republican primaries was 351,000 registered voters … out of a state population of more than 3 million ..in other words, about 10%.

In Coquitlam Burke Mountain, the turnout was also low … less than 7,000 out of more than 38,000 eligible voters; in Vancouver Mount Pleasant the turnout was about 8,800 …. out of an eligible 40,000.

Get the picture?

The outcomes were great news for the NDP’s Jodie Wickens in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and the NDPs Melanie Mark in Vancouver Mount Pleasant … and who could blame party supporters everywhere from celebrating?

And yes, the Coquitlam change IS interesting, since the riding was a Liberal stronghold …but the margin of victory was only 626 votes …in a by-election.

So is there a BIG message  in the results to seriously scare the Liberal government?  Not really.

Just as in Iowa, the Cruz victory will signify very little once the FINAL voting all take place for the Republican nomination.

Yet …in the end … even though I get as absorbed and almost as excited as the partisan party supporters do when the results start of flow … I know that down the very long road to power, what we saw this week …. in BC and in Iowa …. were really very small steps.

With lots of travel kilometres and miles  to go before we even see ANY finish line.

Harv Oberfeld




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