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It’s American election time, and we all know what that means – Canadians will be glued to their television sets, paying close attention to the debates and each candidate’s campaign. The United States’ presidential election matters to Canadians, arguably more so than their own, but why?
There’s something about the fired-up debates and over-budget campaign advertisements that grab us and leave Canadians more involved in the American democratic system than their own.
The appeal is clear. More and more Canadians, especially young people, are tuning in to the American leaders’ debates and buying Obama bumper stickers.
American debates resemble mini civil wars. They include fewer candidates than Canadian debates so speeding through several major topics becomes easier. The polite introduction and ceremonial handshakes take minutes to heat up into a boil of controversial topics, like foreign affairs, free trade, and abortion.
U.S debates are also drastically different than their Canadian counterparts. Debates and mass media coexist in the states. The public decides the format, topics and subject areas of debates, and that is what makes them so raw and intriguing.
“Ours are messier than the U.S.” said political science professor Tom Bateman.
Here at home, our way of doing things is just not as fun. Unlike the U.S, television networks run our debates. The public has no say in the format or topics, making our elections less attractive to Canadians.
Canadian are drawn to the Democrats. They reflect Canadian values in their policies – things like health care and the environment.
“We think Obama resonates more with our multiculturalism. If the democrats lose, we might revert back to our usual anti-American ways.” said Bateman.
Second-year student Travis Aten agrees Canadians are increasingly taking time to get involved in an election that isn’t their own, and it’s thanks to the glamorous debates and topics.
“The states has a more Hollywood kind of election.” said Aten. “Negative commercials and big epic debates with banners and fireworks are what really bring the appeal.”
Do the elections south of the border have any real impact on us, or do we just gawk at the reality-show-type debates and sparkly election campaigns and forget about it once it’s over?
Aten believes, depending on who wins this year’s election, the amount of gay/lesbian Americans entering Canada to get married will increase.
Kaylee Moore, a third-year student, is from New Hampshire and has some opinions of her own as to why we are are so interested in American elections – and how the effect is much more profound in the U.S than it is here.
Moore says people in Canada are interested, but removed.
“My Canadian peers understand the issues. It’s such a different conversation back home versus in the classroom. Policies are argued but when those policies actually make a difference on your life, as an American, it means so much more than just watching the election pan out as a bystander.”
Canadians have a love affair with American politics, and it’s hard to understand. The excitement and drama the American campaign delivers to us up North leaves us tuned in, but the actual impact is much larger than a few hours of entertainment.
“In Canada my friends know more about the US than they know about their own country. I don’t know why this is but I could guess that the US election is undoubtedly a big deal, but really Congress have the ability to effect the rest of the world, especially Canada, in a dramatic way since the two economies are so strongly tied.” Moore said
Moore says debates don’t really offer much in terms of information.
“Romney says one thing, Obama says he’s lying, Romney says it’s true, then Obama says something, Romney says he’s lying – it’s exhausting.
“It’s one thing to debate the economy and unemployment rate in a classroom at STU; but when you’re watching your parents, friends, family, and others lose their jobs, struggle to pay bills, and actually lose their homes – then those “debates” and platforms take on a whole new meaning.”
Bateman believes Canadians are huge consumers of American news and entertainment and the Presidential election is large part of both.
“You have two guys clashing it out in an intense campaign that culminates to one final moment.” said Bateman. “The race is closer than I thought it would be.”