A century ago, the Republican Party held a bitterly contested national political convention. Through nine ballots the party was deadlocked. Some 1,200 kilometres away, a stricken senator lay in his bed, accompanied by teams of telegraph operators helping him follow events as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Finally – when, according to The New York Times, “the strain of his long complication of ailments almost finished him” – Boies Penrose stirred and signalled to the nurses a fateful message: Send word to throw the 60 votes of Pennsylvania to Warren G. Harding, delivering the nomination to the Ohio senator.
Today Penrose is a long-forgotten figure, commemorated only by a statue in Harrisburg’s Capitol Park and by one of the 20 portrait heads on the bronze doors of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. But this spring all of this state’s voters are playing the Boies Penrose kingmaker role.
Those voters – now being assaulted by a daily barrage of TV ads – will decide the finalists for perhaps the most bruising Senate race in this year’s midterm congressional elections. If the Democrats prevail in this contest, they may shore up their majority in the near-deadlocked chamber for another two years.
The stakes could not be higher, the amount of money being raised will set a state and perhaps national record, and the characters involved could not be more colourful. If U.S. politics sometimes seems like a circus, then Pennsylvania is the centre ring.
This madcap process – in a swing state where Donald Trump prevailed in 2016, lost in 2020, then claimed that his victory was stolen from him here – will have national impact. Pennsylvania is not called the Keystone State for nothing; located in the middle of the original 13 colonies, it is the wedge-shaped stone that sits at the centre of the arch, keeping the other stones in place.
And yet there are multiple moving parts to this vital primary election.
The Republican race is boiling down to a contest between a doctor who became a celebrity through his regular appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show (though Ms. Winfrey has refused to endorse him) and a hedge-fund executive whose wife is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian (but who has launched suggestions that his rival’s Turkish roots make him unelectable). The Democratic contest is principally between a shaved-head lieutenant-governor who wears shorts year round (in a corner of the state where the average winter temperature is 3 Celsius) and a straitlaced Marine who is more “Mr. Do-Bee” (the name of the bumblebee in the classic 1953-1994 children’s show Romper Room, who implored, “Do bee good boys and girls”) than “do-be-do-be-do” (the coda favoured by Frank Sinatra of the mid-century liquor-and-licentiousness Rat Pack).
All this because Republican Patrick J. Toomey Jr., perhaps the most conventional figure in this entire political drama, has decided not to seek a third term. He is a traditional Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump in the impeachment trial that followed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. When he announced he was retiring he said, “I decided early on I’m not responsible for the President’s Twitter feeds. I am not responsible for editing his comments in any given medium.”
On the Republican side, neither Dr. Mehmet Oz nor Goldman Sachs executive David McCormick has yet won Mr. Trump’s support, though Mr. McCormick’s wife, a former Trump administration national-security official, has called the former president so often that he reportedly has grown irritated by the entreaties. Both Democratic contenders, Lieutenant-Governor John Fetterman and Representative Conor Lamb, deplore Mr. Trump’s actions and comportment, but Mr. Fetterman is close to the progressive wing of the party, and if Gilbert and Sullivan were to write a comic opera of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lamb, who has an unusually prominent profile in the chamber for a lawmaker who has served only four years, would be cast as the very model of the modern major moderate.
“The past four or five years have changed the nature of our politics,” said Kathleen Ianello, an emerita Gettysburg College political scientist. “They have taught us that it is okay for just about anyone to run for office. The question is whether colourful antics by people on the extremes will prevail and how that defines the two parties in the state in the post-Trump era.”
The irony is that Pennsylvania traditionally has sent sober-minded figures to Washington. Since the Second World War, the state has elected a Republican senator so sickened by Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate coverup that he urged the president to resign (Hugh Scott) and a thoughtful Republican scion of the Heinz ketchup fortune immensely respected by members of both parties (John Heinz). But it has also had lawmakers whose views have prompted them to scramble the usual calculus, such as Arlen Specter (who moved from the Democratic Party to the GOP, then back again) and Robert Casey Jr. (a Democrat personally opposed to abortion).
This May 17 twin primaries – and, likely, the general election that will follow – comprise a classic contemporary American political contest where policy stands are far less important than political profiles. Each party has one establishment figure and one unconventional figure. Each party has principal contenders whose views diverge only by small degrees. Both Democrats favour abortion rights; both Republicans oppose them. Both Democrats say they would vote to abolish the Senate filibuster; both Republicans would retain it.
“At a time when we are focused on the survival of democracy at home and abroad, and when Volodymyr Zelensky is showing us the value of character in politics, voters aren’t looking only at policy positions,” said Dana Brown, a political scientist at Pittsburgh’s Chatham University. “The voters this spring are attuned to what kind of true character they want to represent their party’s values.”
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With debates over, Conservative leadership candidate turns to final membership push
OTTAWA — Now that the second official debate of the race is out of the way, Conservative leadership hopefuls will turn their attention to signing up as many supporters as they can before a fast-approaching deadline.
The party’s leadership election organizing committee says it is already breaking records for how many new members candidates have drawn in ahead of the June 3 cutoff date for new members being able to vote.As of last week, officials were bracing for a voting base of more than 400,000 members by the deadline.
In comparison, the party had nearly 270,000 members signed up to vote in its 2020 leadership contest.
The six candidates vying to replace former leader Erin O’Toole met on stage Wednesday for a French-language debate in Laval, Que. — a province where the Conservative Party of Canada has never won more than a dozen seats.
A rowdy crowd of several hundred booed and cheered throughout the night as candidates took turns lacing into each other’s records, including on controversial pieces of Quebec legislation.
Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre, a perceived front-runner in the race who has been drawing large crowds at rallies across Canada, repeatedly stressed his opposition to the Quebec secularism law known as Bill 21, which prohibits certain public servants in positions of power from wearing religious symbols on the job.
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Ontario mayor Patrick Brown — considered his main rivals — both accused Poilievre of not clearly stating his position on the law when speaking to Quebecers, which he denied.
Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis, as well as Independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber, are also vying to be leader.
Grassroots Conservatives are looking for leadership candidates who can draw many new faces into the party, including in Quebec where membership numbers are low.
Under new rules adopted last year, a riding must have at least 100 members in order for candidates to nab the full amount of points available to them in the ranked-ballot system used to determine a winner.
A winner is chosen when a candidate earns more than 50 per cent of the votes. In the event they don’t, whoever earns the fewest number of votes nationally is dropped from the ballot and the votes they received are redistributed to whichever candidate was marked as their second choice.
Speaking to reporters following Wednesday’s debate, which saw Charest and Brown repeatedly attack Poilievre but not one another, Charest said Brown should not be underestimated in the race.
Entering as the mayor of Brampton, Ont., Brown had a reputation in Tory circles for his ability to organize from his time as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.
He has spent the race criss-crossing the country, meeting with different immigrant and ethnic communities, encouraging them to take out a membership in the party to change Canada’s conservative movement.
Among those he’s focused his attention on are people from the Tamil, Chinese, Sikh, Nepalese, Filipino and Muslim communities.
Brown promises them a better seat at the political table and pledges to end the lottery system to make family reunification easier. He has also spent the last few weeks equating Poilievre’s name with two of the world’s most controversial right-wing leaders — former U.S. president Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, the far-right French politician who recently failed to win a general election.
“The guy I’m running against is trying to replicate what you’d call the Trump version of conservatism or the Le Pen version of conservatism,” Brown told Muslim community members in Surrey, B.C., last week.
In another recent address to a Muslim gathering in Burnaby, B.C., Brown took aim at the crowds Poilievre has been attracting.
“Sort of looks like a Trump rally,” he said, before criticizing the lack of racial diversity.
Brown made similar remarks during Wednesday’s debate when he accused Poilievre of trying to court the support of people akin to Pat King, a leading voice of the Ottawa convoy protest who has also espoused the so-called white replacement conspiracy theory.
Poilievre has denounced King’s remarks.
After Quebec, Poilievre was set to travel to New Brunswick, followed by Thunder Bay, Ont., Winnipeg and Saskatoon. He will bring his campaign message of “freedom” from everything from the cost of living to COVID-19 public-health restrictions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Your Promises Are empty and Similar
“Your promises give us such a thrill,
but they won’t pay our bills,
We want money, that’s what we want(&Need).
The Political Parties in Ontario are trying to bribe us all with our own money. Election Madness, with the NDP promising should they be elected to form the next government, they would set a weekly price cap on the price of gasoline. The Conservatives have promised to temporarily cut the gas tax starting in July. Liberal Steven Del Duca says price caps do not work, while the NDP claims tax cuts do not prevent Energy Corporations from raising their prices.
The Liberal’s platform plank regarding Transit points to a buck-a-dollar ride. The NDP is calling for free transit (possibly in certain regions).
The Doctor shortage is easily solved, so The NDP claim, by hiring 300+ more doctors and thousands of nurses. Their pay will have to be very high in order to attract professional medical talent to Ontario. Medical Professionals have moved to The USA, receiving salaries and enticements many of our current medical pros could only dream of.
So we have political leaders promising billions of dollars to attract our attention and hopefully our vote. Where this money is coming from is usually not discussed. Real numbers are never presented. We have experienced massive spending these past three years, and the international and domestic lenders are demanding to be repaid, yet these promises continue. Not one Political Leader has the courage to tell us the truth, believing we “cannot handle the truth”, but that we would rather sit in the glow of imaginary promises that one only hears during an election.
A powerHouse Premier with a broad array of accomplishments, a Liberal Leader trying to gain a few seats and save His leadership status, a NDP Leader whose very political life is under review(She does not win, She’s gone), a Green Party Leader also seeking a few more seats. That is their political state presently. We are waiting for certain tax increases to come. Someone has to pay for these political visions of future circumstances. The bills and invoices are in the mail, and will certainly arrive this July.
“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers”.(N.K)
Opinion: The paranoid style in Conservative politics has deep roots – The Globe and Mail
Here are some of the things certain candidates for Conservative leader think, or want Conservative voters to think, threaten Canada and Canadians.
Candidate Pierre Poilievre warns his followers that the government of Canada “has been spying on you everywhere. They’ve been following you to the pharmacy, to your family visits, even to your beer runs.”
The government hasn’t been doing anything of the kind, of course: A private company prepared a report to the Public Health Agency of Canada on population movements during the pandemic, using anonymous, aggregated cellphone data. The data allow researchers to count how many people visited a pharmacy or a beer store, not which people did; still less are individuals followed from place to place.
But Mr. Poilievre knows his followers don’t know this, and is quite content to mislead them. Just as he is when he claims he opposes allowing the Bank of Canada to issue a digital version of the dollar because the government would use the data generated thereby to “crack down” on its “political enemies.”
The point isn’t that such data couldn’t be misused in this way. The point is that Mr. Poilievre asserts, without evidence, that it is happening now, and assumes, without evidence, that worse will happen in the future – not as a possibility to be guarded against, but as an inevitability. This is the very definition of fear-mongering. Or, indeed, conspiracy theory. It encourages not prudent skepticism of government’s capacity, but baseless paranoia about government intentions.
But this is statesmanship itself next to the fears he and others have been spreading about the World Economic Forum, which sponsors an annual gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that is the grand obsession of conspiracy theorists everywhere.
Mr. Poilievre hasn’t come right out and said what he thinks the WEF is up to (unlike former Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan, now the leader of the Ontario Party, who earlier this month accused the organization’s leaders of plotting to put microchips in “our bodies and our heads”), but he has made a point of saying that he will ban any member of his cabinet from attending its meetings – though several members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet did, including Mr. Harper himself.
Then there’s candidate Leslyn Lewis, whose particular fear is the World Health Organization, or more precisely a package of amendments to its International Health Regulations put forward earlier this year by the United States. The amendments seem chiefly aimed at preventing the sort of information vacuum that hampered efforts to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, notably stemming from China’s refusal to level with the world about what it had on its hands – but also abetted by the WHO’s own credulousness.
Thus, a critical amendment would require the WHO, should it find there is a public-health emergency “of international concern,” and having first offered assistance to the affected country, to share information with other countries about it, even if the first country objects. (Until now it had been left to the WHO’s discretion.) In conspiracy circles this has been cooked up into an open-ended power for the WHO to force countries into lockdown, take over their health care systems, even, in Ms. Lewis’s formulation, suspend their constitutions.
Where does one begin? The WHO does not have the power to dictate policies to member states. No country would ever agree to give it that power, let alone all 194 member states at once. And of all those countries, the least likely to agree to any such transfer of national sovereignty, let alone propose it, is the United States: the country that, for example, refuses to this day to participate in the International Criminal Court. The only way it could be done even in theory would be by passing the necessary enabling legislation through each country’s legislature, not by simply ratifying an amendment to a regulation.
We’ve been this way before. Remember the Global Compact for Migration? That anodyne collection of best-efforts promises of international co-operation in dealing with the world’s refugees was the subject of an earlier Conservative panic attack. Supposedly we would be permanently surrendering control of our borders to United Nations bureaucrats. It hasn’t happened, because that’s not actually how the world works.
Neither did Motion 103, a non-binding resolution of the House directing that a committee hold hearings on Islamophobia, lead to a ban on criticism of Islam, as still another Conservative fear campaign had claimed. Probably some of its proponents understood this at the time, but lots of their supporters didn’t.
And so it continues. Vaccine mandates become “vaccine vendettas.” Carbon pricing is equated with Chinese-style “social credit” scores. The Bank of Canada’s purchases of government bonds in the middle of the sharpest economic contraction since the Great Depression are depicted as if they were directly bankrolling the Liberal Party.
This cynical act is sometimes dressed up as “sticking up for the little guy” or “taking on the elites.” It is not. It is exploitation, pure and simple, shaking down the gullible for money and votes. It’s a con as old as politics. Before Mr. Poilievre can promise his audience to “give you back control over your lives,” he has to first persuade them that control has been taken away from them – and that he alone has the power to give it back. Or rather, that they should give him that power.
Populism has deep roots in the Conservative Party, at least since John Diefenbaker gathered the disparate populist movements that had sprung up in the West under the Progressive Conservative banner. As the party of the “outs,” those who for one reason or another were excluded from the Liberal power consensus, it has always tended to attract its share of cranks – not just populists but crackpots.
What’s different today? Three things. One, the targets of populist wrath are increasingly external to Canada: bodies like the WEF or the WHO, whose remoteness from any actual role in controlling our lives only makes them seem more darkly potent, to those primed to believe it.
Two, the “outs” no longer simply reject a particular political narrative, but increasingly science, and reason, and knowledge: the anti-expertise, anti-authority rages of people who have been “doing their own research.”
And three, the crackpopulists used to be consigned to the party’s margins. Now they are contending to lead it.
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With debates over, Conservative leadership candidate turns to final membership push
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