Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More on the Quebec election

at LGM from Scott Lemieux here and here, from Matt Yglesias, from John at his home blog and chez Ezra.

Update: and still more from pithlord. For what it's worth, I'm not and never have been in any sympathy with the Rosa Luxemburg's view of cultural particularism. (See, well, nearly every scholarly thing I've ever written.) The ties of cultural particularism are among the strongest in modern politics, and any political analysis that fails to understand this, or any political movement that's committed to ignoring it, will fail. And that's... ok. It's not something I have any urge to celebrate, but it's part of the crooked timber and all that; it's what we're like.

I share pithlord's hunch that the PQ is in real trouble. Even though the margins were small, third place is a bad place to be in a FPP system; and the PQ was greying anyway. Now PQ voters can be told the "don't waste your vote on something that's not going to happen, you have to choose between the two parties that are concerned with governing here and now" story, and it's going to have pull. The PQ has gotten a lot of traction out of its ability to be the only opposition to the Liberals; they've lost that, and will increasingly become the electoral home of the die-hard bitter-ender secessionists only. That's not a tiny group; but it's not a plurality either.

And I also want to echo pithlord's and Scott's comments that my American progressive friends shouldn't be quick to project their homegrown views about left-right economics onto Quebec. I suspect that most of my American progressive friends, if they were to pick out their ideal policy mix of taxation, spending, regulation, market flexibility, elite control, and openness would pick a spot that is so pro-market and low-tax compared to the Quebec status quo as to be off the political radar screen here. (See the critique of the Quebec model in the Quebec lucide manifesto, by a group that most prominently includes the longtime naionalist leader Lucien Bouchard.)

One more update: A few times before the election I blogged about the ADQ and Dumont as representatives of a pretty standard democratic phenomenon: the rural and/or working class populist rejection of elite urban consensus between the extant parties. I mentioned that this basically predictable phenomenon always seems to shock the elites. I'm typically on the side of the urban elites (pro-gay, pro-immigrant, multiculturalist, free trade, etc) in these disputes, but I think I've learned not to be surprised by the phenomenon. (I could hardly be a faithful reader of Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat or Russell Arben Fox and not have learned that by now.)

One thing I forgot to mention, and that we're now seeing in the French Montreal press, is that the voters get psychopathologized for their action. The question "what political preferences of large voter constituencies weren't getting met in the status quo?" gets turned into "why are the voters such scary crazy people?" One famous, and infamous, instance was Peter Jennings' on-air commentary about the 1994 American election that brought Republican majorities to the House and Senate:

"Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It's clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It's the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week....Parenting and governing don't have to be dirty words: the nation can't be run by an angry two-year-old."

Another variant of this is the "cynicism" story: voters who opt for change are characterized as cynical, nihilistic, insufficiently idealistic, because they seemed to believe the worst about us and people like us in whom they should have faith. Both the crazy-angry and the cynical tropes are starting to show up in post-mortems now.

As I think I've made clear in my Herouxville blogging, I think some of the policy prferences of the ADQ's rural base are extremely undesirable. But, given those preferences, there was nothing crazy or cynical or temper-tantrumish about them seeking out a party that would reflect them, and rejecting the partisan status quo.

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