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Cohen: Here are the winners and losers in Canadian and world politics for 2019 – Ottawa Citizen

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Trudeau follows his father into the purgatory of minority government. Yet his achievement this autumn should not go unheralded.


Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson serves Christmas lunch to British troops stationed in Estonia. He’s a 2019 winner –– who could soon become a loser.


STEFAN ROUSSEAU / POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The last year of the second decade has had its winners and losers. Some are obvious, some not.

In Canada, the federal election clarified things. Justin Trudeau won and lost. Jagmeet Singh lost and lost. Andrew Scheer lost and won and lost.

Trudeau follows his father into the purgatory of minority government; he will either see a way back to a majority in three years or resign. Yet his achievement this autumn should not go unheralded. In a country where the provinces have defeated one progressive government after another since 2015, in a western world turning conservative, the Liberals were re-elected.

Singh acted like a winner on election night; he danced into his election headquarters and gave an endless campaign speech, ignoring his party’s stunning reversals. His performance was brazen and shameless, but this is the way for politicians today.

Singh acted like a winner on election night; he danced into his election headquarters and gave an endless campaign speech, ignoring his party’s stunning reversals.

He was outdone by Scheer, who debased himself in the leaders’ debate with a performance laced with malice. It was breathtaking to see our politics descend into character assassination.

Poor Scheer had so little sense of himself that he didn’t seem to know what job he held before politics, why he had U.S. citizenship and, most critically, how he felt on homosexuality. Had he had any self-knowledge, he could have addressed all of these points with a little honesty. Now’s he’s gone, a historical footnote, who will be seen as the party’s placeholder between Stephen Harper and Rona Ambrose.

Other politicians fared well. Chrystia Freeland (Deputy prime minister) becomes the Minister of Everything. François-Philippe Champagne (foreign affairs) becomes chief diplomat. Catherine McKenna (infrastructure) gets big money to build things that the country needs – and she will.

Mélanie Joly (economic development) returns from exile to a senior portfolio. Johnathan Wilkinson (environment) and Marco Mendicino (immigration) get a seat at the head table. Mona Fortier (minister of middle class prosperity) has no earthly reason to be in cabinet, which may explain why she was given an Orwellian portfolio, presumably named by a naïf in the Prime Minister’s Office who had just read 1984.

In Parliament, the big loser is Jody Wilson-Raybould. She won her seat, sadly for her, and now endures the exquisite punishment of being a defrocked senior minister with no suite, staff or ministry. Her soul-mate, Jane Philpott, wisely made her point and lost her seat.

In the provinces, Doug Ford goes from weakness to weakness. His triumph was appointing (then firing the next day) Tyler Albrecht, a 20-something lacrosse player, as Ontario agent-general in New York City. It showed a premier who was all ignorance and impulse.

Ford’s soul mate, Jason Kenney, was a winner in Alberta until he turned whiner. Now he talks up western alienation to distract Albertans from draconian budget cuts in a province without a sales tax.

In the United States, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed several important bills (albeit dead on arrival in the Senate) and impeached a president. She united her fractious caucus and proceeded masterfully. She is a heroine.

She is joined, as winners, by those Democrats (and a former Republican) who put their seats on the line to protect the integrity of the House, and, as they did in the articles of impeachment, the security of the union. Other heroes include the former and serving diplomats who testified before the House committee at risk to their careers.

Abroad, Boris Johnson emerges a winner. If Brexit goes badly and the United Kingdom goes into recession, though, he will wear it. If Scotland leaves, he will preside over the end of the U.K.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu comes out a loser, under indictment for corruption and trying to hold power in another election. It’s unlikely. In France, Emmanuel Macron is in trouble, which may have less to do with his well-intentioned reforms than his country, which like Spain, may be ungovernable.

All of this makes the real winners of 2019 Canadians. Our quarrelling and complaining notwithstanding, we managed to get the national government we wanted, and some new faces, too. In an unsettled world, we muddled through – again.

Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.

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A Guide to the Economics and Politics of the Coronavirus Recovery – The New Yorker

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Photograph by Marco Bello / Reuters

Just a month ago, experts were predicting that the American economy would be slow to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment remains at record highs, but, as the country begins to reopen, federal policies that have bolstered small businesses and bailed out big ones seem to have helped avoid another Great Depression. John Cassidy joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how good news about the economy complicates Joe Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump.

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Keep Politics Out of Reopening Houses of Worship – The New York Times

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Credit…Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Firing Salvo in Culture Wars, Trump Wants Churches Open” (front page, May 23):

Last Friday was not the first time we have witnessed a politician attempting to ingratiate himself with faith communities. Through the years, leaders from both major political parties have sought the support of houses of worship in their electoral campaigns.

Certainly those of us who devote our lives to religious leadership would like to consider our work “essential.” And we eagerly await the day when we can welcome our congregants back to their spiritual homes. While we can pray to God anywhere at any time alone or with others, and while the internet has provided a viable and meaningful vehicle for gathering our members in this time of physical distancing, nothing could ever replace the power of in-person congregational worship.

But religious communities must not become political pawns for a president seeking to placate his evangelical base. In Judaism, the saving of life supersedes all other religious responsibilities. The decision whether or not to reopen houses of worship belongs in the hands of local authorities alone, guided by health concerns, not political ones.

Joshua M. Davidson
New York
The writer is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.

To the Editor:

The cynicism of President Trump’s call to governors to open the churches is staggering. I am a Catholic who attends Mass every day. I have always loved the ritual of the Mass, and I rejoice and celebrate as I gather with friends old and new who enrich my life. I will return joyfully to my church when our governor deems it safe to do so, not when it is politically expedient for our president.

John T. Dillon
West Caldwell, N.J.

To the Editor:

President Trump asks all governors to immediately open up churches and allow in-person worship — without testing. Yet everyone who meets with Mr. Trump must first be tested.

So, what’s good for the gander ain’t good for the goose. If he truly believes that in-person worship is safe, let’s see him go to these churches (or restaurants or theaters) without testing — and let’s see him mingle with the folks not wearing masks.

Marc R. Stanley
Dallas

Credit…From left: Zack DeZon for The New York Times; Andrew Seng for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Star of the City Sells Itself,” by Michael Kimmelman (Critic’s Notebook, Arts pages, May 7):

OK, the Brooklyn Bridge is wholly in New York City and joins two of its boroughs. And it was something of an engineering achievement. Book after book has been written about it; it appears in a wealth of movies.

But the great bridge in the New York area is the George Washington.

When I sought to read a book on the George, I discovered that there were none. Participating in a symposium at Columbia University on American icons, and listening to others drone on about the Brooklyn, I asked “What about the George?” There was complete silence. Then one participant said, to almost universal laughter, “But look where it goes,” the suggestion being that since the George crosses to New Jersey, it couldn’t possibly be important.

The George is also the gateway to Interstate 80, on which one may travel in a straight line to San Francisco. New Yorkers think of themselves as sophisticated compared with New Jerseyans, but they can often be decidedly parochial.

Michael Aaron Rockland
Morristown, N.J.
The writer is the author of “The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel” and a professor of American studies at Rutgers.

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Face masks now define a divided America and its politics – The Globe and Mail

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A man wearing a face mask walks past signs for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, in Alexandria, Va., on May 11, 2020.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. election of 1860 was fought over the future of slavery in the United States. The 1932 election over how to respond to the Great Depression. The 1980 election over the role of government in the economy. The 2020 election is shaping up as a fight over whether Americans should wear a protective mask.

In competing images on one of America’s most sacred moments of civic reflection, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined a Memorial Day commemoration this week wearing a mask, while, 175 kilometres away, President Donald Trump attended a separate remembrance unencumbered by a face covering.

Mr. Trump has mocked Mr. Biden for wearing a mask. Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump “an absolute fool” for refusing to do so.

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And so it is that today a simple but divisive public-health measure defines America and its politics.

“The people who are not wearing masks are by and large white, male, rural, suburban and right-leaning,’’ said online pollster John Dick, whose CivicScience public-opinion firm has examined Americans’ social, cultural and political attitudes during the pandemic. “They are the same people who voted for Trump. It is a big middle finger to everyone they resent. I’m convinced that the people who support Trump don’t even really like him that much. They just hate the people who hate Trump.”

In 1768, John Dickinson, the Philadelphia lawyer known as the penman of the American Revolution, took a Royal Navy anthem and grafted onto it his objections to British colonial taxes and eight words that in time became an American aphorism: “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.’’

Two and a half centuries later – after Kentucky transformed that phrase into its state motto, after the patriot orator Patrick Henry employed it in his final public speech, after Abraham Lincoln borrowed it for a famous speech and after the group Brotherhood of Man made it into a 1970s pop hit – the country Dickinson’s revolution created seems hopelessly divided.

Today Americans are split over whether to reopen the country to commerce. The states are divided over how swiftly to resume normal economic activity, with the Democratic governors of the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin opting to go slowly. Mr. Dick believes that what he calls “political tribalism” is the “most powerful force in America right now – because it predicts almost everything.” And pollster John Zogby sees the fall election as a contest between “rage” and “empathy.”

In that contest, Mr. Trump personifies rage and Mr. Biden empathy – and in that regard masks are a powerful symbol.

“You don’t wear your mask out of fear, you wear it out of empathy,” said Christine Whalen, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Human Ecology. “Those masks aren’t protecting you, they’re protecting others. But if we all wear them, we all are protected.”

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Mr. Zogby points out that Democratic candidates who have won in the past half-century – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have been empathy candidates, projecting “an everyman image of understanding pain and suffering,” while those who have lost – Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton – were nominees who “projected images of elitism and/or technocratic management over bonding.”

The very qualities Mr. Biden personifies are the ones Democrats hope will prevail this autumn. The very qualities Mr. Trump personifies are the ones that triumphed four years ago.

Meanwhile, the pandemic and the two men’s responses – with Mr. Biden instinctively leaning toward the views of conventional experts and Mr. Trump instinctively taking an iconoclastic approach – provide a glimpse of the campaign to come.

Five times as many Republicans as Democrats are ready to return to normal daily activities, according to CivicScience surveys. Democrats are more than three times more likely to say they will remain in quarantine even if their state or local governments allow a return to normal.

Wearing a mask may be a telling symbol of the two candidates’ outlooks but it is not an infallible guide to political affiliation. Though a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this month said 89 per cent of Democrats but only 58 per cent of Republicans reported wearing a mask most of the time when outside their homes, two top Republican leaders in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his likely successor, John Cronyn, were seen in masks this week.

“Wearing a face covering is not about politics – it’s about helping other people,” Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said via Twitter this week.

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In the last mass domestic challenge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt combined rage (“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization”) and empathy (“We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well”) in the very same speech. It was his first Inaugural Address, in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, and is considered one of his greatest speeches – and he is considered the chief executive against whom all successors are measured.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday called his Republican rival Donald Trump an ‘absolute fool’ for not wearing a mask at a series of recent public events, saying his lack of leadership on the issue is ‘costing people’s lives.’ Reuters

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