Andrew Coyne: Ex-Liberal candidate’s only crime was engaging in ethnic politics — out loud

More piling on with respect to former Liberal candidate Wang (the replacement candidate, Richard Lee, also a Chinese Canadian, has provincial political experience).

Coyne ends this column with the quasi-ideological twist that favouring greater representation of under-represented groups is somehow more undermining of social cohesion than not doing so, and that bias is not a factor in hiring and other practices:

You have to feel for the Liberal Party of Canada, who are surely the real victims in the Karen Wang affair.

The party had innocently selected the B.C. daycare operator to run in next month’s byelection in Burnaby South based solely on her obvious merits as a failed former candidate for the provincial Liberals in 2017, and without the slightest regard to her Chinese ethnicity, in a riding in which, according to the 2016 census, nearly 40 per cent of residents identify as ethnically Chinese.

Imagine their shock when they discovered that she was engaging in ethnic politics.

In a now-infamous post on WeChat, a Chinese-language social media site, Wang boasted of being “the only Chinese candidate” in the byelection, whereas her main opponent — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — is “of Indian descent.”

The party was instantly and publicly aghast. Pausing only to dictate an apology to be put out under her name (“I believe in the progress that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are making for British Columbians and all Canadians, and I do not wish for any of my comments to be a distraction,” etc etc), party officials issued a statement in which they “accepted her resignation.” Her online comments, the statement noted, “are not aligned with the values of the Liberal Party of Canada.”

Certainly not! How she got the idea that the Liberal Party of Canada was in any way a home for ethnic power-brokers prized for their ability to recruit members and raise funds from certain ethnic groups, or that it would even think of campaigning in ridings with heavy concentrations of voters from a given ethnic group by crude appeals to their ethnic identity — for example by nominating a candidate of the same ethnicity — must remain forever a mystery.

Unless, of course, her real crime was to have said out loud what everybody in politics knows to be the practice, not just of the Liberals but of every party, but prefers not to mention. But the thing having been said, the party had no alternative but to pretend to be appalled, just as the other parties had no alternative but to pretend to be outraged.

There is, after all, a script for these things. Usually it is performed at the expense of the Conservatives, as in the controversy a few years back over a leaked party memo proposing an advertising strategy for “very ethnic” ridings, or another that urged a candidate’s photo include voters of different ethnic backgrounds — as if every party did not do this, every day. Again, the crime was to have said what must be left unsaid, or rather to have been caught doing so.

The only difference in this case is that it involves the Liberals, usually the first to feign such outrage, now forced to yield the stage to the NDP. Thus the NDP’s Nathan Cullen was quoted saying Wang’s post was “the worst kind of politics there is,” while Singh himself observed how “politics that divide along racial lines hurt our communities… I want to focus in on politics that bring people together.”

It takes some effort, hearing such admirable sentiments, to recall NDP officials’ open speculation, after Singh was elected party leader, that this would improve their chances in cities such as Brampton, Ont., or Surrey, B.C., with large numbers of Sikh voters. It doesn’t necessarily follow, of course: voters of all ethnicities display a stubborn tendency to think and vote as individuals, frustrating parties’ efforts to sort them into little boxes. But that doesn’t mean the parties don’t think that way, or act accordingly.

For her part, the lesson Wang drew from the controversy was that she should have limited herself to stressing her own ethnicity, without mentioning Singh’s. “As a Canadian with a Chinese background, normally, obviously, you are trying to gain people’s support from the same cultural background,” she told her post-resignation news conference.

Which at least has the virtue of honesty. The hypocrisy of the universal outrage over Wang’s appeal to tribalism is not just that all the parties do it, as a matter of practical politics, but that much respectable opinion believes it to be right and proper as a matter of principle. Thus, for example, electoral boundaries are supposed to be drawn in conformity with what is delicately called “community of interest,” on the precise understanding to which Wang sought to appeal: that membership in an ethnic or other identity group trumps. At the limit, it emerges in calls for special dedicated ridings — even a separate Parliament — for Indigenous voters.

This is hardly confined to politics: across society, progressive ideology has lately taught us, not to emphasize our common humanity, but the opposite: that people of one group may not — cannot — be represented by those of another; that they are to be judged, not as individuals, but on the basis of their race, gender and so on. The current generation of federal Liberals, in particular, has made hiring quotas the defining principle of their government, to be institutionalized from top to bottom.

It is lovely to hear Liberal ministers proclaim, in response to the Wang affair, that “the value we stand for is representing all Canadians,” just as it is heartening to read an NDP commentator denounce the idea of reducing voters to “a passive, two-dimensional identity to be exploited for someone else’s elevation to the political class.” If only they meant it.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Ex-Liberal candidate’s only crime was engaging in ethnic politics — out loud

USA demographic changes and political shifts: Asians, Latinos and Orange County

Good question regarding whether or not Asian Americans will be influenced by the Trump administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric and actions:

The same sort of panic that hit California’s Latinos after the 1994 passage of the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 is now hitting many of this state’s almost 6 million ethnic-Asian residents.

Latino fears in the wake of Prop. 187, which sought to keep the undocumented immigrant out of public schools, hospital emergency rooms and seemingly any place its authors could imagine, led to citizenship applications and then voter registration by more than 2.5 million Hispanics over the next three years.

They caused a political revolution in California, which morphed from a swing state equally likely to elect Republicans or Democrats into one of the most staunchly Democratic states in the Union. Only one Republican has been elected to statewide office in the last 20 years, the almost non-partisan former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won out in the 2003 recall of ex-Gov. Gray Davis.

Now Asian immigrants are feeling fearful because of President Trump’s ban on entry to this country by residents of several Muslim-majority countries and his attempts to restrict the number of political and humanitarian refugees allowed in, plus a drive to deport Vietnamese refugees with any kind of crime on their record, no matter how old or minor.

Asians also remember the Japanese internment during World War II, in which 120,000 Japanese-Americans were held in remote camps for several years.

“You hope things like that can’t happen again, but they really can,” said one green card holder from Thailand. “So I will become a citizen.”

Like her, thousands of Asians in California, from countries as diverse as China, the Philippines and India, see citizenship as the best protection from a potential future expulsion.

If they become citizens in anything like the proportions of Latinos who felt similarly in California after passage of Prop. 187, they could spur vast political changes well beyond this state’s borders. In fact, if both they and citizenship-eligible Latino immigrants ever register in large numbers, they could turn several once-solid Republican states into battlegrounds or cause them to lean Democratic.

And Asians here are applying, although there are impediments Latinos did not face in the late 1990s. Example: Of the 220,000 immigrants in Orange County now eligible for naturalization, nearly 30 percent are Asian. Of them, about 4,500 applied for naturalization through the first three quarters of 2017. If that trend continues statewide for the remainder of Trump’s current term, more than 150,000 Asians will be added to California’s voting rolls.

Because they’re registering largely for the same reasons as Latinos once did, they probably won’t change this state’s political composition. But what about other states? Taking Texas as an example, more than 680,000 Asians are now eligible for citizenship but have not applied. That could make for big change in a state that in November almost gave a Democrats their first statewide victory in more than 20 years.

Yes, the $725 naturalization application fee is a roadblock for many. So is the required blizzard of paperwork. But Texas saw more than 20,000 citizenship applications from Asians last year. If Latinos, many even more apprehensive about Trump’s policies than Asians, register in Texas in similar percentages – and they have not yet – they could combine with Asians to turn Texas Democratic. For that state contains more than 3 million Hispanics who have not sought naturalization despite being eligible.

For sure, the numbers indicate fear among both Latinos and Asians has not reached the same levels it did among California Hispanics after Prop. 187.

But what happens when and if Trump begins serious work on his long-advertised border wall? And what if he attempts mass deportations of illegal immigrants, as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions advocated during his days in the Senate?

For sure, hate crimes against immigrants of all kinds increased during Trump’s presidential campaign and his first year in office. If that trend accelerates, it may spur the kind of fears that pushed Latinos to get naturalized here.

Isaac Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Just as former President Obama’s policies produced the backlash that elected Trump, so Trump’s policies may already have begun producing an even stronger national backlash against him and his party.

Source: Thomas D. Elias: Will Asians spur big new political changes?

And this analysis of the shift from solidly Republican to leaning Democratic in Orange Country is revealing:

To appreciate the vast cultural and political upheaval across Orange County over the last 40 years, look no further than Bolsa Avenue. The auto body shop, the tax preparer, a church, a food market, countless restaurants — all are marked by signs written in Vietnamese.

Or head seven miles west to Santa Ana, where Vietnamese makes way for Spanish along Calle Cuatro, a bustling enclave of stores and sidewalk stands serving an overwhelming Latino clientele.

The Democratic capture of four Republican-held congressional seats in Orange County in November — more than half the seven congressional seats Democrats won from Republicans in California — toppled what had long been a fortress of conservative Republicanism. The sweep stunned party leaders, among them Paul D. Ryan, the outgoing House speaker. Even Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor-elect of California, won the county where Richard M. Nixon was born.

But the results reflected what has been a nearly 40-year rise in the number of immigrants, nonwhite residents and college graduates that has transformed this iconic American suburb into a Democratic outpost, highlighted in a Times analysis of demographic data going back to 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected president.

The ideological shift signaled by the most recent election results, on the heels of Hillary Clinton beating Donald J. Trump here in 2016, is viewed by leaders in both parties as a warning sign for national Republicans, as suburban communities like this one loom as central battle grounds in the 2020 elections and beyond.

Those new swing suburban counties were one of the central factors behind the 40-seat Democratic gain in the House in November. Many of them have been changed by an increase in educated and affluent voters who have been pushed toward the Democratic column by some of Mr. Trump’s policies. That partly accounts for what is happening here in Orange County, but the political shifts can also be explained by the rapidly changing cultural, political and economic face of the region and are on display in places like Bolsa Avenue, which is known as Little Saigon.

“There are so many of us here and that is what is contributing to these changes,” said Tracy La, 23, who is Vietnamese. Ms. La helped organize a rally in Westminster in mid-December to protest an attempt by the Trump administration to deport thousands of Vietnam War refugees. It drew hundreds of people to the Asian Garden Mall, one of the largest and oldest Vietnamese-operated malls in the nation.

“This is where the future is heading,” said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California. “I don’t see anything that took place in these elections or the demographic trends that are ongoing, to make me think this is a one-time incident.”

That said, the critical question for Democrats — and for Republicans eager to get back in the game — is how much of the November outcome, and the large turnout of younger Latino and Asian-American voters, was because of Mr. Trump.

Kyle Layman, who ran the Southern California congressional campaigns for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said this election had apparently begun to cement long-term changes in voter behavior — an assessment that is not disputed by California Republican leaders.

“I think what we have done is built a foundation that is going to be sustainable,” he said. “These seats are going to be swing seats moving forward. They are going to be very, very tight. But this is part of a long-term trend.”

Indeed, even if the dramatic shift on display in 2018 was in reaction to Mr. Trump — and particularly the immigration policies he has embraced — analysts said that he had only accelerated political movements that were well underway.

“Because it’s becoming more diverse it’s becoming more Democratic, because the Democratic Party is more inclusive,” said Gil Cisneros, a Democrat from Yorba Linda who captured a House seat held by Representative Ed Royce, a Republican. “This is no fluke at all. It’s been this way for a long time and it’s going to continue to trend this way for a long time.”

There was a steady decrease in white voters in the seven congressional districts that are in and around Orange County between 1980 and 2017, according to census data. In 1980, whites made up 75 percent of the population in the district where Mr. Cisneros won. By 2017, that number dropped to 30 percent.

The county’s immigrant population grew five times as fast as the general population between 1980 and 2000, and while the pace of immigration has slowed, the Latino and Asian populations continues to increase, driven by the children of immigrant families born in the United States.

“The Republican Party in Orange County has been traditionally all white,” said Carlos Perea, 25, who moved to Santa Ana from Mexico to join his parents 11 years ago. “The party has pushed for policies that are very harmful to those communities: 2018 was a referendum on that old Orange County.”

Source: In Orange County, a Republican Fortress Turns Democratic

In contrast, Republican support among Latinos, although low at about one-third of voters, is holding steady:

The 55-year-old Colombian immigrant is a pastor at an evangelical church in suburban Denver. Initially repelled by Trump in 2016, he’s been heartened by the president’s steps to protect religious groups and appoint judges who oppose abortion rights. More important, Gonzalez sees Trump’s presidency as part of a divine plan.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Gonzalez said of the president. “He was put there.”

Though Latino voters are a key part of the Democratic coalition, there is a larger bloc of reliable Republican Latinos than many think. And the GOP’s position among Latinos has not weakened during the Trump administration, despite the president’s rhetoric against immigrants and the party’s shift to the right on immigration.

In November’s elections, 32 percent of Latinos voted for Republicans, according to AP VoteCast data. The survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters — including 7,738 Latino voters — was conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Other surveys also found roughly one-third of Latinos supporting the GOP. Data from the Pew Research Center and from exit polls suggests that a comparable share of about 3 in 10 Latino voters supported Trump in 2016. That tracks the share of Latinos supporting Republicans for the last decade.

The stability of Republicans’ share of the Latino vote frustrates Democrats, who say actions like Trump’s family separation policy and his demonization of an immigrant caravan should drive Latinos out of the GOP.

“The question is not are Democrats winning the Hispanic vote — it’s why aren’t Democrats winning the Hispanic vote 80-20 or 90-10 the way black voters are?” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster. He argues Democrats must invest more in winning Latino voters.

The VoteCast data shows that, like white voters, Latinos are split by gender — 61 percent of men voted Democratic in November, while 69 percent of women did. And while Republican-leaning Latinos can be found everywhere in the country, two groups stand out as especially likely to back the GOP — evangelicals and veterans.

Evangelicals comprised about one-quarter of Latino voters, and veterans were 13 percent. Both groups were about evenly split between the two parties. Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist in California, said those groups have reliably provided the GOP with many Latino votes for years.

“They stick and they do not go away,” Madrid said. Much as with Trump’s own core white voters, attacks on the president and other Republicans for being anti-immigrant “just make them dig in even more,” he added.

Sacramento-based Rev. Sam Rodriguez, one of Trump’s spiritual advisers, said evangelical Latinos have a clear reason to vote Republican. “Why do 30 percent of Latinos still support Trump? Because of the Democratic Party’s obsession with abortion,” Rodriguez said. “It’s life and religious liberty and everything else follows.”

Some conservative Latinos say their political leanings make them feel more like a minority than their ethnicity does. Irina Vilariño, 43, a Miami restauranteur and Cuban immigrant, said she had presidential bumper stickers for Sen. John McCain, Mitt Romney and Trump scratched off her car. She said she never suffered from discrimination growing up in a predominantly white south Florida community, “but I remember during the McCain campaign being discriminated against because I supported him.”

The 2018 election was good to Democrats, but Florida disappointed them. They couldn’t convince enough of the state’s often right-leaning Cuban-American voters to support Sen. Bill Nelson, who was ousted by the GOP’s Spanish-speaking Gov. Rick Scott, or rally behind Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who lost to Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Still, in the rest of the country, there were signs that pleased Democrats. Latinos voted at high rates in an election that saw record-setting turnout among all demographic groups. Latinos normally have among the worst midterm turnout rates, and while official data won’t be available for months, a number of formerly-Republican congressional districts in California and New Mexico flipped Democratic.

That’s why Republicans shouldn’t take solace from being able to consistently win about one-third of Latinos, said Madrid. They’re still losing two-thirds of an electorate that’s being goaded into the voting booth by Trump.

“That is contributing to the death spiral of the Republican Party — even if it holds at 30 percent,” Madrid said. “That’s a route to death, it’s just a slower one.”

Gonzalez, the pastor, sees the trend in Colorado. He distributed literature across Spanish-speaking congregations supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton, who was crushed by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis as the GOP lost every race for statewide office.

Gonzalez understands the anger among some Latinos at the GOP and Trump for what he says is a false impression of a solely hardline immigration stance. “In the community that is not informed, that is following the rhetoric of the media, there’s a view that Donald Trump is a bad guy,” Gonzalez said. Evangelicals “understand that he’s there to defend values.”

Gonzalez’s church is Iglesia Embajada del Reino, or Church of the Kingdom’s Embassy. On a recent Saturday night, an eight-piece band played Spanish-language Christian rock before Gonzalez walked to the podium. Wearing a blue corduroy blazer, blue shirt and grey slacks, Gonzalez, a onetime member of a Marxist group in Colombia, told his congregants that they were ambassadors of a higher power — the kingdom of God.

“It’s important that your political opinions, your social opinions,” not enter into it, Gonzalez said. “We need to represent the position of ‘The Kingdom.’ ”

Gonzalez did not mention Trump in his sermon, though he spoke about the Bible as a book of governance.

Afterward the congregation gathered for bowls of posole, a traditional Mexican soup. When politics came up, church-goers struggled to balance their enthusiasm for some of Trump’s judicial appointments with their distaste at his rhetoric and actions.

“I think the president has good, Christian principles,” said Jose Larios, a parks worker. “But we feel as Latinos that he doesn’t embrace our community, and our community is good and hard-working.”

Oscar Murillo, a 37-year-old horse trainer, is not a fan of Trump’s. But he tries to stay open-minded about Republicans. He voted for the GOP candidate for state attorney general, who visited the congregation before the election. “He’s in the same party as Trump, but he seems different,” Murillo said.

Source: Latino support for GOP steady despite Trump immigration talk

 

 

Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy focus on the shifting views of millennial men, visible minorities as well as not visible minority, towards populism and the right. The 2019 election will provide a test of their thesis but certainly the Conservatives seem to mining this resentment in much of their messaging:

As Canadians, we sit atop the continent, watching as our neighbours slide into cultural civil war. It has become easy to just be appalled as America becomes riven, with social media and antagonistic rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum erasing the middle ground. There are two Americas, incommensurably separated on the fundamental issues of the day: climate change, the economy, social issues like health and education, employment, the media, immigration in particular, and globalization and free trade.

We’ve learned more and more about the populism that has fuelled this complicated moment as the fracture in America races like wildfire throughout Western democracies. It is the biggest force reshaping democracy, our economies and public institutions. It is the product of economic despair, inequality, and yes, racism and xenophobia. It is an institutional blind spot, largely denied or ridiculed by the media, and by the more comfortable and educated portions of society.

It is very much alive in Canada. In fact, our populist explosion has already had its first bangs and is likely to have a major impact on next year’s federal election.

The shifts in the democratic world order over the last decade have increasingly prompted social scientists to discard the left-right political spectrum in favour of an “open-ordered axis,” or what The Economist calls drawbridge-down vs drawbridge-up thinking. The former are cosmopolitan-minded people, in favour of diversity, immigration, trade, and globalization, and who are optimistic about the future; they’re guided by reason and evidence-based policy, and believe that climate change is a dominant priority. Drawbridge-up people, with an “ordered” worldview, are largely parochial, and they have reservations about diversity, are deeply pessimistic about the economic future, believe more in moral certainty than reason and evidence, are disdainful of media, government and of scientific expertise, and are convinced that climate change is trumped by the economy and their own survival. It’s ordered thinking that is metastasizing in Western societies, including Canada’s, especially among the political right. EKOS research from 2017 suggests about 30 to 40 per cent of adult Canadians are drawn to it.

Meanwhile, research over the last 10 years has found that Canada, like the United States, is turning into a society fissured along fault lines of education, class and gender. These are social chasms defined by the concentration of wealth at the top of society and, for everyone else, by economic pessimism and stagnation; by a comfortable feeling on one end of the societal teeter-totter, and a fear on the other end that a subscription to the middle-class dream might no longer be available.

Although there has been a recent uptick for the first time in 15 years, the portion of Canadians who self-identify as middle class since the turn of the century has declined from 70 per cent to 45 per cent, a stark number that mirrors America’s—signalling that Canadians have a deeply pessimistic view of their personal economic outlook. Only one in eight Canadians thinks they’re better off than a year ago. Only one in eight thinks the next generation will enjoy a better life. And EKOS finds that, by a margin of two to one, Canadians believe that if present trends with inequality continue, the country — this country! — will see violent class conflicts.

Ordered populism has already become an illusive, misunderstood theme in provincial elections in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario. Indeed, Doug Ford and his Ontario Progressive Conservatives won thanks to a preponderance of working-class, male electoral support—but a closer examination of the vote shows that male millennials, against expectation, supported Ford in significant numbers and had a high turnout. Millennial women, meanwhile, preferred the New Democratic Party by a margin of 25 points, and the millennial women who didn’t vote NDP largely stayed home. Millennial men split their votes between the NDP and Progressive Conservatives, and they led females millennials by 10 points in turning out to cast ballots.

Survey evidence strongly suggests that these are young men angered by the economic realities they face, and they are hit the hardest by what is happening in Ontario’s economy. A joint study by United Way Toronto and York Region and Hamilton’s McMaster University on poverty and employment precarity in southern Ontario reports that only 44 per cent of millennials in the region — the heartbeat of Canada’s economy — have full-time, permanent jobs, that the majority have not found work that provides extended health benefits, pension plans, or employer-funded training, and that formerly high-paying blue-collar jobs there are rapidly vanishing. The lack of good jobs, coupled with the social catastrophe of affordable housing and the resulting need to delay family formation, is resulting in anxiety and depression that disproportionately affects millennial men—making them ideal targets for the appeals of ordered populism.

What is happening challenges the conventional view that the youngest adults of Canadian society—the millennials, now Canada’s largest electoral demographic—operate with roughly similar, progressive views and values.

Another assumption in need of challenging is the idea that Canada’s ordered populism, like its American counterpart, is a besieged white citadel. In fact, our northern brand is as much the choice of multicultural new Canadians as of white native-born Canada. A significant chunk of new Canadians, many of them non-white, indicate they will vote Conservative in next year’s federal election — even though 65 per cent of Conservative supporters told EKOS this year that Canada admits too many non-white immigrants. And while a majority of Canadians are open to immigration, the intensity of the opposition is red-hot, including in other parties: 20 per cent of New Democratic Party supporters and 13 per cent of Liberal supporters also believe too many non-white immigrants are entering the country..

There are two possible explanations for this: First, new Canadians may bring with them into the country strains of social conservatism that make them hostile to issues like same-sex marriage and what they see as immoral, too-liberal sex education, an inflammatory issue in Ontario over the past couple of years. Thus, what they see as an assault on their values may be more important than a party trying to appeal to voters who want fewer of them in the country.

Second, where neighbourhoods are ethnically homogeneous as many are around the core of Canadian cities—white, brown or otherwise—populism holds appeal. Where there’s more diversity, it doesn’t. As social scientists have discovered, communities which have the least contact with with minority groups are the most hostile to them.

The looming federal election could be a spark for all the populist tinder largely being ignored in Canada. In the 2015 federal election, voting differences by gender for all age groups were flat. Now the federal Conservatives hold a 17-point advantage among men from all age groups other than seniors —a huge change in three years. Federal Conservatives also hold an advantage over Liberals and New Democrats with voters who self-identify as working class, and the party has overwhelming support from non-university-educated Canadians, the group most likely to feel left behind by the disappearance of blue-collar industries.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a party supported by the economically comfortable. His successor, Andrew Scheer, leads a party of the economically unhappy, of the new economy’s losers, a base increasingly comfortable with raising the drawbridge even as the Liberal government announces Canada will admit an additional 40,000 immigrants by 2021, bringing the annual number of new, mostly non-white arrivals to 350,000. Any campaign rhetoric that confuses this new support with its old party will only exacerbate the anger—and for the angry to find comfort in populism’s temptations.

What we do know is that Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government, with its populist strains and its vague campaign promises, is what many angry young men voted for. Maybe they didn’t vote for its policies; maybe, in their anger, they just voted to burn the house down, even if the history of populist movements show they’ve rarely worked out.

We can try to understand why it’s happening. We can insist that governments tackle inequality and affordable housing. We can build a future that preserves progress for all of us but addresses the real injuries of those who have embraced populism, while also refusing to bend to their fear, anger and ignorance. But letting populism burn the house down benefits nobody—and we can’t just ignore the smell of gasoline in the air.

Source: Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Good and thoughtful analysis by former colleague Erin Tolley. One of the paradoxes is that federal and provincial visible minority representation is reasonably good, with the major gap being at the municipal level. Her work in understanding why this is so is important:

Local politics are often viewed as an entry point into political life. Municipal candidacy requires less money, gatekeeping by traditional political parties is relatively absent, and successful candidates who become councillors can fulfill their terms at home without having to uproot their families to the provincial or federal capital. As a result, we might expect to see city councils that are more diverse. However, that expectation is simply not borne out, as we saw recently in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, where only a handful of racialized councillors won seats in the October 22 municipal elections.

But less has been said in the media about Mississauga, the country’s sixth-largest city and one where the lack of racialized representation on the municipal council is perhaps especially acute. In Mississauga, 57 percent of the residents identify as members of a “visible minority” (more than in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa), and there is now just one racialized councillor, Dipika Damerla. Prior to that, Mississauga’s council was entirely White.

In fact, most municipalities in Canada are governed by councils that are predominantly White and mostly male. Women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals are numerically underrepresented on most city councils. The lack of diversity means many voices are excluded from the decision-making process. This puts municipalities at risk. Large swaths of the population may feel underrepresented or ignored, and council may miss out on important views.

Damerla, a former provincial politician, ran in a Mississauga ward that was vacated after the retirement of a 30-year council veteran. The presence of long-time incumbents and the significant advantage they wield is one reason the demographic profile of municipal councils has remained so stagnant. Some have talked about the need for sitting councillors to “make way” for more diverse voices. In London, Ontario, Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman to serve on that city’s council, was elected. Late in the campaign, her candidacy was endorsedby Rod Morley, who dropped out of the race to put his support behind the only woman candidate in the ward. Morley has run for provincial and municipal office before but, in explaining his decision to leave the race, he told the London Free Press, “The power (balance) is wrong right now. I want to try to do something about that.”

In Mississauga, just two sitting councillors opted not to run for re-election this time around. The incumbents who did run were all re-elected, some garnering more than 90 percent of the vote. These incumbents block the road to newcomers. Limiting the number of terms that mayors and councillors could serve might help, but term limits are virtually unheard of in Canadian politics, and they remain a controversial measure.

It’s not that there is a shortage of racialized candidates in Mississauga. Of the 78 candidates who ran for council in this election cycle, 44 were racialized Canadians. That’s 56 percent of all contenders. Moreover, every ward race included two or more racialized candidates, as did the race for mayor. In the most tightly contested ward, seven of the 11 candidates were racialized, but the incumbent, Ron Starr, was ultimately victorious.

The issue is not that racialized candidates aren’t running in Mississauga. The issue is that voters aren’t choosing them.

Low voter turnout is an important factor. In Mississauga, voter turnout was just 27 percent, and there is evidence that racialized Canadians are less likely to vote than White Canadians. When we look at variations in voter turnout, socio-economic explanations are influential, but we also need to think about role model effects. If racialized minorities are looking at the political landscape, and they do not see their concerns being reflected, they are less likely to engage in the process. It is thus a vicious cycle. Strategies to increase voter turnout among racialized minorities must be a part of any effort to address the persistent Whiteness of municipal politics.

Finally, there is the question of voter preference. All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. This is the same for White voters and for racialized voters, and it is particularly apparent in municipal contests, where voters’ electoral decision-making occurs in what is often called a “low-information” context.

In cities like Mississauga, where municipal candidates run without party labels and there is limited local media coverage, voters have to rely on other cues to sift through their ballot box options. Name recognition is one such cue. But voters also use candidates’ race, gender and other sociodemographic characteristics as a shortcut to infer information about politicians’ issue positions, policy preferences and suitability for office. There is a tendency for voters to believe that candidates who are most similar to themselves will be best able to represent them. Decision-making shortcuts play a role in all electoral campaigns, but they matter especially in local politics because of the absence of other information.

In a low-information context where demographic cues play a role, turnout is low, White voters are more numerous and the field is dominated by White incumbents, the outcome — mostly White councils — is entirely predictable.

But in Mississauga, there is even more to the story.  The second-place finisher in the mayoral race is a candidate who was charged with a hate crime in a case still before the courts on election day. That candidate received more than 16,000 votes and the support of 13.5 percent of Mississauga electors. Clearly, there is a segment of the city’s population for whom racial equality is not top-of-mind. The vote is a means of registering resistance. It gives voters a tool to fill the seats of decision-making tables with representatives for whom equity and inclusion are guiding principles. When prospective voters opt out (or are left out), the risk is that those spaces will be ceded to other voices.

In the absence of more diverse representation, what can elected bodies do to ensure marginalized voices are included? One thing Mississauga has done is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to provide advice to council on “ethno-cultural relations and diversity matters.” The committee includes the mayor and two councillors as well as 20 community representatives. The committee is advisory in nature, so it is not a replacement for elected representation. However, it could give members exposure, networks and experience that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics.

Diversity on council isn’t a matter of political correctness. It goes to the heart of representative democracy, which is premised on elected bodies reflecting the citizens they serve. Elected bodies are unlikely to ever be a perfect microcosm of society, but the persistent homogeneity of municipal councils is of concern. Councillors invariably draw on their own experiences and beliefs when they exercise their duties, and plenty of evidenceshows that decision-making tables are more effective when they include a broader range of perspectives. The exclusion of diverse voices from municipal councils may result in flawed policies, and that threatens the effectiveness and very legitimacy of the decisions that are taken.

Source: Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

My fellow partisans: How we can yell at each other more thoughtfully – Jason Lietaer

Building on the earlier column by Ian Capstick (Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest: Ian Capstick), Jason Lietaer provides some useful categorization and do’s and don’ts):

Over the past several years, fuelled by the rise of social media and an increasingly politically divided populace around the world, excessive partisanship has flourished. It’s a growth industry. If it were a stock, you would buy. You would mortgage your house to buy and then buy a little more on margin, just to be safe.

I think most thoughtful people consider this is to be bad. The tone of the last U.S. election campaign could be compared to a raging dumpster fire, but that would be an insult to dumpsters, to fires, and to dumpster fires.

One of the men in my line of work, a genuinely nice guy named Ian Capstick, wrote a piece in Maclean’s announcing he was done with partisanship. The piece calls for more empathy, more reasoned debate and a little bit of self-awareness. It’s better for our collective mental health, he argued.

He’s right. The problem, though, is that not all of us are ready to give up partisan politics. So I wanted to take Ian’s thought further, and present a user’s guide to stopping the madness—and who better to advise on reducing partisanship than the guy who ran Stephen Harper’s war room and called a Liberal op-ed “complete and utter horses–t” on Twitter just this week? (See? A little self-awareness and humour can go a long way!)

Since most of you out there aren’t TV or radio personalities, I’ll mostly use social media examples. But for those of you who are partisans on TV and radio: we see you too.

To fix the problem, we first have to identify the problem. As I see it, there are six major kinds of partisans we all run into. We could spend weeks subdividing them into kingdom, phylum, class and species…but that’s probably a job for the minister of science.

Here are the groups we’re dealing with:

The Bot: If you’re spending your day arguing with one of these, just delete your account. You cannot be helped. These, as evidenced by their name, are not actually quite … people. The account in question may be run by the Russians, the CIA, Mossad, or just a nerd in the school lunchroom, but it doesn’t really matter. Usually the avatar is a woman in a bikini, a man whose face is obscured by a scuba mask, or it’s a picture of a bumper sticker or billboard associated with some ridiculous issue.

The Troll: Although the Troll’s actions are virtually indistinguishable from the Bot, this is an actual person. Their defining characteristics are a density that is only approached by volcanic rock, and a penchant for non-sequiturs and whataboutism (the ancient science of dismissing any follies of your own party with seemingly analogous examples from your opponents). Despite Darwinism, they are surprisingly common. This is the kind of person who sits at a family gathering insisting that the local mayor is on the take because of a zoning variance, makes fart jokes and takes the last piece of pie for good measure. They are—simply put—jerks. There is nothing to be gained by entering into a dispute with them. Do not approach unless you like to be called names, have all day to debate a fool, or are in desperate need of more Twitter followers.

The Impenetrable Wall: A true hyper-partisan, this group has never seen their preferred party make a mistake, has never seen anything from the other side that might be a good idea, and never, ever, resorts to facts to buttress an argument. Often polite and well-mannered, they are the kind of person you meet for a drink but make damn sure you’ve built in an excuse beforehand so you can leave immediately at any moment. If they try to use facts, they are out of context or flat-out wrong. Do not try to approach one of these in the wild without a net or a gun loaded with tranquilizer darts.

The Phony Listener: A close cousin to the Impenetrable Wall, but a nicer version. They have the effect of a cross between a therapist and a teacher. They are just as attached to their positions, but they are presented with a sanctimonious “more in sadness than anger” tone. Oh, there will be pats on the head and subtle bridging: “I understand your point, but I think the most important thing is…” The effect is the same: minds are not changed. Ever. If you deal with this group, try to have some fun. Call out their hypocrisies and gently make fun of their biases. It drives them crazy. Personal note: I adopt this helpful persona when I try to drive progressives mad.

The Snake In The Grass: Perhaps the most infuriating group, but possibly my favourite because I sometimes inhabit this arena when I’m feeling frisky. Usually a “semi-retired” smug politico or a still-working certified media party elite, these folks use barely perceptible language shifts to push the point of view of their side, while seemingly flying above the fray. The worst part: they really don’t even know they’re being partisan. Many inhabit the salons of Ottawa or just simply Air Canada lounges congratulating themselves on how enlightened they are. The media members from the left will generally be found signing a contract with the Trudeau government within a few months to provide communications support; on the right, they are anxiously awaiting a Doug Ford premiership so they can get raises by working in the public sector.

The Prototype: This individual considers all points of view and emotional context before making an opinion. She reacts to opponents’ arguments with empathy and self-reflection. He thinks before acting and does not get angry or intolerant. Facts are brought forward and discussed. Every interaction they are involved in is collegial, minds are sometimes changed, and everybody feels great afterward. Note: As you know, this person does not actually exist.

So how do we move from Troll down to the Prototype? I’ve got a few handy rules. Some of them I even follow myself!

Do not ascribe motives to your opponents. This is more important than all the other rules combined. It’s the root cause of most problems. If you believe in your heart that your opponents are trying to destroy the country, you are a jerk. It’s just science. I can guarantee Stephen Harper wasn’t trying to wreck the country, and Justin Trudeau isn’t either. Mulroney, Chretien or Martin: ditto. Get it out of your mind. They might have the wrong ideas in your opinion, but these people are trying to do what they believe is the right thing and got into politics for the right reasons.

Be hard on the issue, not the person. Or disagree without being disagreeable—whatever cute phrase you want to use. Treat people online as you treat your colleagues at work. Too often we treat each other online as though we are warring spouses involved in a divorce filing. Treat people with respect, and if you can’t, go throw the ball around with your kids.

Speaking of:

Get an identity outside of politics. Pick up a hobby. Take up interpretive dance. Go exercise. Go for a drink with somebody who can’t recite the names of all the current premiers. Just get off your phone. This is key for young political staffers—trust me, your life is better when politics is part of your life, not your whole life.

Get some friends on the other side. I implore you: meet some people of the opposite political persuasion. You’ll be shocked how much it will broaden your horizons. By the way, this advice goes for pretty much everything in your life. If you’re homophobic, hang out with some gay people. If you find yourself thinking racist thoughts, go meet a more diverse group of people. Shocking what you may learn.

Admit when you’re wrong. It’s tough. I get it. But it’s freeing. If you mess up, put your hand up and move on. If fewer people are entrenched, real discussions can happen.

Watch your tone. The last federal election was all about tone. It’s easy to forget these lessons. For conservatives: we got off track with our tone. For progressives: you identified it and campaigned on it almost exclusively. Don’t forget these lessons. Canadians expect a level of civility from everyone.

Media is not the enemy. For conservatives: most media doesn’t love us. Get over it. It’s not changing. For Liberals: you’re governing the country. There’s gonna be tougher questions for you. Drop the sanctimony and get back to what you do best. For the NDP: sorry guys, if you want to be considered to lead the country, the stakes are higher. You have to get ready for the scrutiny and be better.

Get off the talking points already. This is mostly for TV and radio folks, but man, it’s tiresome. Spend an extra couple of minutes to put it in your own words. Listen as much as you talk. Respond to debate. Ask a question or two of your fellow panelists. Try to say something nice about your opposition. You’ll be surprised how much better you will be.

Use the Google machine. Before you accuse somebody of bias, read what they wrote. Look online for a few objective facts. Before you beak off, just give yourself five minutes to walk away from your computer, read an article or two, and take a breath.

So there it is: A starting point for all you beginners before going to your first Partisans Anonymous meeting. A nine-point plan that could make you a happier partisan.

Ian quit cold turkey, but you don’t have to. Let’s just be better.

via My fellow partisans: How we can yell at each other more thoughtfully – Macleans.ca

Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest: Ian Capstick

While written in the context of partisan politics, some broader lessons for us all in terms of the need for reflection, empathy and being open to others:

For eight years, I was a commentator on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, speaking on issues ranging from the state of the economy to breaking-news stories. My job, in effect, was to think analytically about the political issues of the day, and predict where things would go. Yet something I couldn’t predict was just how much partisanship would have a profound effect on my life.

It was, in effect, making me sick.

I realized it after an awkward on-air back-and-forth led to a heated off-air interaction with our guest host, Terry Milewski. He was asking about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s condemnations of violence as he grappled with reports about his attendance at Sikh independence rallies, and though I felt I’d given a solid answer, he kept pressing me on the issue.

Ultimately, he kept his cool—and I did not.

Over and over on the show, I have railed against entitlement—and yet there I was, berating a semi-retired award-winning journalist in the commercial break. Angry or not, right or wrong, I knew in that moment it’s not who I wanted to be. No matter how legitimate my issue might have been with his questions, I lost any real ability to address it once I’d led with anger instead of empathy. But why was I so upset?

After that encounter, I reviewed clips from various years, and watched myself over the last year experience small lapses in attention on air; forgetting familiar political words and remote locations was especially distracting.

For the first time, I recognized some of my signature knee-jerk confrontational behaviour on- and off-air was because of what therapists call rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD), or an acute sensitivity to criticism that is found in many adults with attention deficit disorder. I had let my routines slip, my self-care slide and the constant barrage of negativity overwhelm me.

As I reflected on these moments with family and friends, I realized how similar my entitlement and anger was to the actions of many of the politicians and staff who had berated me—online and off—for whatever they saw fit.

I noticed, ultimately, that I was failing to comment with empathy. I decided to leave the show on Mar. 20.

Empathy is fundamental, both personally and for our lives at large. The ability to see value in two diametrically opposed ideas is critical to creating a thriving, pluralistic democracy.

But partisan politics in the social media age is increasingly leaving little room for contemplation. Political parties seek out smart people who have been encouraged to think outside of the box for their entire careers, and then shoehorn them into the smallest of “message boxes” and expect them to cease thinking for themselves. When debate becomes about taking entrenched sides, intransigence and invective become the order of the day.

That empathy seems to be missing even when it comes to debating ideas with people on the same side. Look no further than how Hamilton MP David Christopherson was just treated online and off for breaking ranks with the NDP caucus in voting against new rules for the Canada Summer Jobs program, which asks groups to attest that their core mandate respects the values of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including abortion rights. As a result, the NDP has punted Christopherson from his role on the standing committee on procedure and House affairs, responsible not only for the rules and practices of the House but also passing judgement on MP conflicts of interest; there is hardly a better parliamentarian for this critical (and equally mind-numbingly boring) committee assignment.

Christopherson is an ally of LGBTQ people; he is pro-choice and an ardent feminist. He has stuck his neck out on more issues than most in his caucus have even voted on. And yet last week, the leadership of the NDP felt it needed to punish him for articulating a carefully considered and nuanced view.

“If the law is an ass, you have right to say so,” Christopherson told his local paper in Hamilton. “You have to obey the Charter; you have to obey the laws. But you don’t have to bow and scrape and commit fealty. You don’t have to say, ‘I love the law.’ ”

He’s right, of course—but you wouldn’t know it from the state of political debate in Canada today.

Progressives rightly railed against a values test when former MP Kellie Leitch demanded it be imposed on refugees and immigrants—yet they were strangely silent when the values test Liberals imposed had answers that aligned with their values. And now, with Christopherson’s punishment costing him his job on the important multi-party standing committee, the whole system loses out.

(You have to wonder if Dave will be scrolling Facebook while serving his extra hours in House of Commons debates wistfully hitting “like” on photos of his Layton-era colleagues relaxing in Florida, wondering how the hell he ended up in the back row and not on a beach.)

Christopherson is just the latest to fall victim to this unwillingness to see compromise and collaboration as strengths instead of weaknesses. And in the eyes of many partisans, I’m guilty of this too. Despite ostensibly providing analysis from the lens of a proponent of the NDP, I’ve been criticized for providing too much nuance and context and not enough sharp jabs and verbal left-hooks. It’s why I was thrilled I didn’t have to talk about any of the Christopherson affair on television.

In Ottawa, simply changing your mind is seen as professional frailty, and as disloyalty to your party. Once the talking points are issued, only the bravest stray from the script. Social media has only handed political strategists more tools to monitor MPs and opinion-makers and an additional channel with which to influence their opinions.

Social networks can leverage network effect and economies of scale. Their ability to grow their membership is what makes these corporations attractive to investors and potentially very dangerous to democracy and our mental health: they’re draining empathy from the very people who make up the user base of the networks.

While the corporations offering the so-called free services are benefiting from the economy of scale, so are those who use the tools to cause emotional harm and pain. Partisan sock puppets, trolls and bots make sure of that. The very technology and algorithms that were supposed to allow people to come together are now regularly being used to drive people apart.

This is part of the reason official Ottawa is in the midst of a mental health crisis—and at the root of it is unhealthy partisanship and how it’s being amplified online. Our political capital’s practice of forced conformity and its tough social media climate is affecting the long-term health of some of our country’s brightest.

Understanding and addressing our personal and political histories and how they intertwine is part of how we can heal current-day trauma. To foster this healing, we must be able to have honest and open dialogue about the incredible pain and suffering the very institutions of Parliament and government have caused to so many.

In my case, it means I need time and space to be more reflective, less quick to judgement, and more deeply informed about the subjects I’m commenting on. I need to learn to be angry less often and lead with empathy.

We need to encourage collaboration over conflict. We need to spend more time eating together and less time berating each other. Parliament needs more joint committees to enable work across both Houses.

Pundits need to stop pretending like things have never happened before: historical context is a powerful tool for helping to understand the political reality of today. We need to encourage the telling and reframing of not only the great stories of confederation, but the difficult and painful stories as well. Without this space for reflection, we are bound to repeat the same political mistakes.

There isn’t yet room for complexity in political opinion. But maybe if we spend a little bit more time trying to understand each other rather than tear each other down, we all might get to a place that embraces the challenges of our nation with a bit more grace.

via Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest – Macleans.ca

Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

Fun article, with the time old nostalgia for older waves of immigrants in contrast to anti-immigration views for newer non-European waves:

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) thinks President Donald Trump’s immigration framework goes too easy on undocumented immigrants. Appearing last week on a Baltimore radio program, he blasted Trump’s proposed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to United States as children—as an “amnesty” plan. Instead, along with 87 colleagues, he supports a more extreme House Republican proposal that would sharply curtail legal immigration and treat Dreamers as criminals if they fall into poverty.

So it might come as a surprise that Harris is a leader of a group that celebrates an immigrant tradition. The son of immigrants who fled Hungary and Ukraine after World War II, Harris co-chairs the Congressional Hungarian Caucus, a bipartisan group that aims to “represent interests of Hungarian American constituents.”

Harris is not alone among immigration hardliners in his advocacy for existing immigrant populations. He is just one of 11 co-sponsors of the House Republican bill who chair one of the more than 60 congressional caucuses that advocate on behalf of other nations, their immigrants, and those immigrants’ descendants. These lawmakers celebrate their own immigrant heritage as they voice support for ending the legal immigration practices that helped bring most of those immigrants to America in the first place.

Congressional caucuses are informal bodies that direct policy activity around a particular issue and serve as forums for information exchange, says Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute who studiedcaucuses for the Congressional Research Service. The ethnic- and country-focused groups, like the Congressional Italian American Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus, are typically bipartisan, serving to highlight immigrants’ contributions while also strengthening diplomatic ties with their countries of origin. Members of Congress might join one because of their own personal heritage, or to show support for an ethnic group that dominates their districts. Unlike powerful legislative blocs like the House Freedom Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus, however, these caucuses typically serve as “interest group box-checking,” says Glassman. “I think of the vast majority of caucuses as signals to voters, more so than influencing the legislative processes.”

Some of the fiercest critics of immigration are among the most vocal cheerleaders of immigrant heritage, including their own. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)—a grandson of Italian immigrants and member of the Congressional Italian American Caucus, who has supported legislation to celebrate Italian Heritage Month—recently wrote an op-ed urging an end to “chain migration,” a term used by immigration opponents to describe the practice of allowing immigrants to join their families in the United States. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), a co-chair of the German-American Caucus who has said Pennsylvania is “proud of its German heritage,” called Trump’s immigration plan “reasonable” and said in 2009 that “if they [immigrants] are here illegally, it may be a good time for them to go home.” And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a co-chair of both the Congressional Friends of Norway Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Liechtenstein Caucus—roles his office says stem from diplomatic efforts, cultural interest, and family relations—introduced his own hardline immigration bill in 2005, which would have criminalized living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. All three are co-sponsors of the House Republican immigration bill, which has little chance of becoming law.

GOP hardliners have attempted to reconcile this conflict by separating the past from the present. “If people coming into the United States don’t have a job, that weighs on local resources,” says an aide to Barletta, arguing that today’s 327 million Americans strain land and economic opportunity more than ever before. Barletta, who previously served as mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, passed the nation’s first local ordinance that punished employers and landlords for hiring or leasing to undocumented immigrants, a response to Central American immigrants settling in the small city. The aide said these measures help keep revenue and population growing at the same rate.

Thomas Guglielmo, a scholar of American immigration history at George Washington University, says the tendency to celebrate old immigrant populations while demonizing new ones has a long history. In the 1920s, Congress established a policy that set quotas based on the number of immigrants already in the United States from each country. The system significantly restricted southern and eastern European immigrants while favoring those from northern and western Europe, which had sent the first mass wave of immigrants to the United States in the mid-19th century. As the second wave of immigrants—who came from eastern and southern Europe in the early 20th century—gained political power, they advocated for a new system that prioritized family ties, giving immigrants from their homelands a leg up over those from elsewhere in the world.

After the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act curtailed immigration from Europe, Irish- and Italian-American lawmakers led the push to establish the diversity immigrant visa lottery, which provides visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Thanks in part to the lottery, the share of immigrants from outside Europe has increased from one out of eight in 1960 to nine out of 10 in 2010. Republicans are now trying to end the diversity lottery.

Guglielmo says many lawmakers fail to recognize the similarities in the struggles of the European immigrants of the past and the immigrants from elsewhere in the world today. “These folks who revel in their Euro-ethnic heritage don’t really understand that history at all,” he says. “To the extent that they see difficulty in the past, it’s held up as this badge of honor.”

via Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

The growing diversity within federal ridings: Policy Options

My latest:

Increased political representation of visible minorities in Canada makes it virtually impossible for any major political party to take explicit anti-immigration positions.

via The growing diversity within federal ridings

For those interested, the full table of all 338 ridings can be found here: C16 – Visible Minority – Ridings

Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C.

Tend to agree that more studies needed with respect to visible minorities and religion (some obvious links, Canadian Sikhs, evangelical or more fundamentalist Christians among Chinese Canadians), and the political impacts:

Did Christy Clark increase her popularity by 10 percentage points when she stopped attending Vancouver’s giant Pride parade?

That’s one of the more spicy possibilities raised in a new book that delves into how religion makes a big difference in politics in Canada, even in unusually secular B.C.

The authors of Religion and Canadian Party Politics, from UBC Press, devote a chapter to the ways conservative Christians have been a crucial factor in B.C.’s political dogfights, with a glance also at Sikh influences.

The University of Toronto’s David Rayside and Carleton’s Jerald Sabin and Paul Thomas explain how Clark, who had been happily attending Pride parades, abruptly stopped doing so in 2012.

With Clark painting herself as more socially conservative, her polling numbers went up and those of the then-robust B.C. Conservative party plummeted by 10 percentage points.

The ex-premier did more than snub Vancouver’s Pride parade to cement the “religious vote” in the pivotal 2013 B.C. election, however.

Clark’s advisers obtained an endorsement from Stockwell Day, a preacher and former Conservative cabinet minister. Clark also appeared on the evangelical TV show of David Mainse, host of 100 Huntley St. In addition, the book cites my report on her speech to the Christian organization, City in Focus, in which she said it’s “tragic” more people don’t worship God.

Perhaps most importantly, Clark aggressively propped up private religious schools, and not only because her son attended Vancouver’s St. George’s, an upper-class, nominally Anglican institution.

Religion and Canadian Party Politics cites how B.C.’s private schools, which are mostly conservative Christian, with some Sikh and Muslim, are growing to the point they now educate 13 per cent of all the province’s young students.

The tactics of Clark, an Anglican, were not only aimed at white Christians, but also B.C. Filipinos (95 per cent of whom are Christian), Koreans (64 per cent Christian) and ethnic Chinese (22 per cent Christian, 59 per cent not religious).

As for the B.C. NDP, Religion and Canadian Party Politics points to polls suggesting they appear to disproportionally rely on non-religious voters.

That is significant since the portion of British Columbians who are atheists, or unaffiliated, is arguably the highest of anywhere in North America, at 44 per cent.

It should be noted, though, that despite the tendency of B.C. Liberals to attract religious voters and the NDP to do the opposite, polls suggest all the province’s parties are capable at different times of drawing support from across the ethnic and faith spectrum.

It’s too bad, in an era when almost all politicians are going out of their way to court minority religious and ethnic groups, the book touches only briefly on Clark’s early success with Sikhs.

It quotes a source saying 30 per cent of the B.C. Liberal party’s membership was made up of Sikhs, even though they comprise just five per cent of the B.C. population. Metro Vancouver’s Sikhs number almost 200,000 and their large gurdwaras often host political gatherings.

Unfortunately, since Religion and Canadian Party Politics was published in 2017, it was not able to report on the way many Sikhs seemed to feel betrayed by Clark during this year’s B.C. election.

The NDP this May won all eight Metro Vancouver ridings with significant Sikh/South Asian populations.

An even more recent overlap of Sikhism and politics in B.C. occurred with the October election of Jagmeet Singh, an orthodox Sikh, as leader of the federal NDP. Singh won in part because he signed up 10,000 new members in B.C., many of them Sikhs.

It’s paradoxical that Singh is now leading a progressive, morally liberal party, even while he’s a baptized Sikh loyal to a faith devoted to conservative sexual ethics.

Even though Singh, 38, is unmarried, the Sikh religion emphasizes orthodox males are expected to be married, emphasizing they should not have sex until then.

Homosexuality is also not accepted in Sikh teaching, and abortion is seen as generally wrong.  Nevertheless, Singh appears to express the kind of tolerance promoted by Sikh teachings about not hating anyone based on their race or sexuality.

How do Canadian Muslims vote?

That question may not be quite as significant in Metro Vancouver, where the Muslim population is three per cent, as it is in places such as Montreal and Toronto, where Muslims make up eight per cent of the population.

Even though Religion and Canadian Party Politics doesn’t delve into it, polls suggest many Canadian Muslims support patriarchy, reject homosexuality and discourage mixed unions.

So it initially appears contradictory that 65 per cent of Canadian Muslims supported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, (a Catholic) who frequently shows solidarity with feminists and LGBQT people.

The paradox is partly explained by Stephen Harper’s campaign, however. The federal Conservative party took a stand against the face-covering niqab worn by some Muslim women and, as Rayside said in an interview, showed “very one-sided support for Israel.”

Such is the complicated world of religion and politics in Canada.

While Religion and Canadian Party Politics is strong in critically assessing the influence of conservative white Christians on politics, sometimes by stealth, it’s not as useful on the impact of minority ethnic and religious groups.

Rayside acknowledged many scholars are reluctant to appear to criticize ethnic-based faiths.

But whites are now a minority in Metro Toronto and Vancouver. And about 17 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents, and 22 per cent of Torontonians, follow a non-Christian religion.

As scholar Reginald Bibby points out in his new book, Resilient Gods (UBC Press), in the decade leading up to 2011 more than 478,000 immigrants arrived who were Catholic (mostly Filipino and Chinese), 442,000 had no religion (mostly Chinese and Europeans), 388,000 were Muslims (mostly Iranians and Pakistanis), 154,000 were Hindus (from India) and 107,000 were Sikhs (India).

Scholars may have to overcome their cautiousness and more seriously study the impact of such fast-growing ethnic and religious groups.

It’s not just conservative Christians who have been quietly changing the face of Canadian partisan politics. So have Sikhs and Muslims: Many would expect they would be the hot new thing in political research.

via Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C. | Vancouver Sun

How Immigration Foiled Hillary – The New York Times

This is a really good long read and analysis of the tensions in rural America over immigration and related issues.

While the Canadian electoral system (ridings) makes lop-sided margins in cities and rural ridings less significant, it nevertheless is a reminder of the need to find ways to alleviate the concerns and apprehensions of rural voters:

Democrats point to a thousand reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. Here is another.

In political circles, it’s common knowledge that in four key states President Trump unexpectedly carried counties that Democratic presidential campaign strategists had failed to recognize as crucial terrain — sparsely populated areas of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In “What I Got Wrong About the Election,” for example, published right after Clinton lost, David Plouffe, who had managed the Obama campaign in 2008, wrote that

Trump’s margins in rural and exurban counties were off the charts. For example, in Madison County, an exurban area outside Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Romney’s margin over Mr. Obama was 20.4 percentage points; Mr. Trump’s margin over Mrs. Clinton was 39.8.

Plouffe added that this “happened in thousands of counties throughout the country, and it added up quickly.”

What Democrats missed was the profound political impact recent immigration trends were having on the more rural parts of the once homogeneous Midwest — that the region had unexpectedly become a flash point in the nation’s partisan immigration wars.

In a Brookings essay published last month, John C. Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, a local think tank, writes that the region is experiencing a “steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”

As a result, Austin continues,

Immigration has become an unambiguous factor in this racially charged Midwestern landscape. While immigrant-rich states like Arizona, California, and Florida are often at the center of immigration policy discussions, the political debate about the role of immigrants burns hottest in the heartland.

Austin went on, in an email, to provide more detail about the power of immigration to move white voters into the Trump column:

The “rural” voters here are some farmers, but more likely, as in the hinterlands outside Flint, Monroe, Toledo, Erie, or Janesville, Wisconsin, they are mostly white, working class blue collar workers or retirees, many, sadly, who fled their small cities to escape blacks. They are anxious about the economic prospects for their future, their aging communities (the kids have fled), making folks mad. And now all these immigrants come and are changing the society!! Just as Macomb County, where working class white voters fled Detroit in advance of blacks, now sees nearby communities like Hamtramck becoming (in their view) a Bangladeshi bazaar — and they don’t like that. And they are easily fanned to blame those folks.

In February 2017, Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster and strategist, conducted four postelection focus groups with white voters who had cast ballots for Trump in Macomb County, Michigan, an area he has been studying since 1985. The participants were not Republicans. They were whites without college degrees who identified themselves as independents, as Democratic-leaning independents, or as Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008, 2012 or both.

“Immigration is a powerful issue for these Trump voters, representing a demand that citizens come before noncitizens, Americans before foreigners, and that we take care of home first before abroad,” Greenberg wrote in his report for The Roosevelt Institute:

They believe that we have “opened up our borders, they pretty much made it a free for all” which means fewer jobs and greater demands on government services and more concerns about safety.

Greenberg’s report is replete with revealing quotes from the focus groups:

I went and finally signed up for Medicaid, and I’m standing in the damn welfare office, and I’m looking around at all of these people that can’t even say hello to me in English. But they’re all there with appointments for their workers, which means they have the health care, they have the food stamps…. If you can come from somewhere else, why can’t we all get it?

And:

My grandson’s school, I went to as a child, there are hardly any — I’ll just say American families there now. It’s mostly Middle Eastern and people all standing outside waiting for their kid, to pick them up at the end of the day, and nobody’s speaking English. Everyone’s speaking other languages, which, there’s nothing wrong with other languages.

And:

You know what, like where I’m working, at Kroger, how many Spanish people I wait on. The universal language — I don’t care, if you smile — hello, I don’t care what country you’re from, but some of these people, they act like they can’t do that, even. It’s like, “You know what? You’re in America.” Get with either — you can learn to say hello, goodbye, thank you, in our language. This is America.

Three developments are taking place in the rust belt simultaneously.

First, as recently as 2000, many of the key Midwestern counties that moved from blue to red in 2016 had very few minority residents. Since then, their immigrant populations began to increase at a rapid rate well above the national average. Second, at the same time that immigrants are moving in, younger native-born residents are leaving in droves to seek employment elsewhere, while the remaining white population is aging and is often hostile to change. It is the perfect formula for cultural conflict, and Trump proved to be the perfect candidate to exploit it. Finally, these changes are taking place in a region that Austin points out is home to “15 of the nation’s 25 major metro areas with the sharpest black-white segregation,” making it even more unreceptive to nonwhites than other sections of the country.

One way to understand what has been taking place recently in the Midwest is through the use of a measure called the diversity index. This index ranks geographic areas — states, counties and ZIP codes — on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the more likely that two people chosen at random will be different by race and origin. Put another way, a higher number means more diversity, a lower number, less diversity. (The diversity index for states and counties can be found here.)

Arrayed on a diversity index, Michigan with an index of 42, Wisconsin at 35, Ohio at 36, and Pennsylvania at 41, all rank in the bottom twenty — i.e., the least diverse — of the fifty states. The diversity index for the entire country is substantially higher at 63. Examples of states with very high diversity indexes include California at 79; Nevada at 73; Texas at 70; and New York at 70.

A rapid rate of growth in the percentage of immigrants in communities that have in the past experienced little diversity is particularly explosive.

Benjamin J. Newman, a political scientist at the University of California-Riverside, described this phenomenon in a 2013 paper:

Growth in local Hispanic populations triggers threat and opposition to immigration among whites residing in contexts with few initial Hispanics, but reduces threat and opposition to immigration among whites residing in contexts with large pre-existing Hispanic populations.

In other words, communities that are close to 100 percent white will react intensely to a modest increase in foreign-born residents, while highly diverse communities will shrug it off.

…In a prescient 2010 paper, “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition,” Daniel Hopkins, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, described the crucial interaction of the rate of change in the level of immigration with the politicization of the immigration issue by national figures:

When faced with a sudden, destabilizing change in local demographics, and when salient national rhetoric politicizes that demographic change, people’s views turn anti-immigrant.

In an email, Hopkins elaborated on his thesis: “sudden influxes of immigrants generate hostility, likely because they destabilize long-time residents’ sense of their communities’ identity.”

Looking back on the 2016 election and the importance of the immigration issue, what stands out is the failure of the Clinton campaign to address the immigration concerns of the Obama-to-Trump voters who played such a key role in the outcome. Campaign strategists may not have been aware of the intensity with which these voters viewed the issue, or they may have decided that given their target voters, the Democratic Party was not at liberty to moderate its unwavering pro-immigration stance.

The immigration stance of the Clinton campaign contrasted with Obama’s record. While Obama called for immigrants who were brought into this country as children to be allowed to stay, he stressed policies calling for the deportation of criminals and in fact deported more people than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

The campaign’s public stance on Immigration Reform declared:

Hillary has been committed to the immigrant rights community throughout her career. As president, she will work to fix our broken immigration system and stay true to our fundamental American values: that we are a nation of immigrants, and we treat those who come to our country with dignity and respect — and that we embrace immigrants, not denigrate them.

Eight of the nine policies described in Clinton’s statement are pro-immigration, and the ninth refers only peripherally to enforcement:

Enforce immigration laws humanely. Immigration enforcement must be humane, targeted, and effective. Hillary will focus resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety, and ensure refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. have a fair chance to tell their stories.

The Clinton campaign has come under some fire from fellow Democrats on immigration. In a June American Prospect essay, Stanley Greenberg wrote:

The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens’. Instinctively and not surprisingly, the Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America.

The contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will test whether and how the explicitly liberal stance adopted by Clinton might evolve. This is a moral and political challenge for left-liberal parties throughout the Western Hemisphere. On one hand, there has been the prospect of “an emerging Democratic majority.” In the United States, Obama won the White House twice relying on just such a majority.

An issue that first came to the fore 52 years ago after passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act has yet to be resolved. The task for Democrats is how to come up with a non-xenophobic, non-racist answer to this problem.

Still, Trump’s 2016 victory — as well as Brexit, Marine Le Pen’s episodic successes (33.9 percent of the French presidential vote last May), and the emergence of the anti-immigrant AfD in Germany last month as the third largest party in the Bundestag — all demonstrate that backlash politics continue to gain ground and remain a powerful force.