Part 2: What If Canada Was Part of the United States?

This is the second (more serious) part of two posts exploring the political consequences that would happen if Canada became part of the United States. The previous part can be found here.

A note to all Canadian readers: this post was written for the intent of a good laugh, and some serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken.

How Important Would Canada Be?

The previous post looked at what would have happened in the 2004 presidential election if Canada had been part of the United States:

Democratic candidate John Kerry wins, but barely so. If 6,000 votes had shifted in Wisconsin, here is what would have happened:

Suddenly President George W. Bush is re-elected again.

This example probably overstates the importance of Canada. Canada’s Democratic vote would probably have sent Vice President Al Gore to the White House. But before that, one has to go all the way back to 1876 to find an election when the result would have been changed by Canada voting Democratic. Indeed, before 2000 the last time it matters which way Canada votes comes in 1916.

America’s presidents would mostly have been the same with or without Canada.

Here is another way to look at the picture. In the 2008 presidential election, a total of 131.2 million Americans voted. In the same year Canada held federal elections, in which 13.8 million Canadians voted. If one assumes that the same number of Canadians would vote in an American presidential election, one can make the table below:

If Canada Votes… Then Barack Obama Gains:
100% Democratic 9.53%
90% Democratic 7.70%
80% Democratic 5.83%
70% Democratic 3.93%
65% Democratic 2.96%
60% Democratic 1.98%
55% Democratic 1.00%

To be fair, these are not bad figures for Democrats. An increase of three percent in one’s popular vote is nothing to sniff at. At the same time, however, it is nothing world-altering.

Let’s take a look at the 2010 midterm elections. 87.8 million Americans voted for a congressional representative, and Republicans won that vote nationally by 6.8%. One can run the same numbers with Canada’s 2008 federal elections to get:

If Canada Votes… Then Republicans Win By:
100% Democratic -6.81%
90% Democratic -4.24%
80% Democratic -1.60%
70% Democratic 1.12%
65% Democratic 2.51%
60% Democratic 3.92%
55% Democratic 5.35%

This indicates that Democrats would have needed around about three-fourths of the Canadian vote to tie in the 2010 popular vote.

Conclusions

A Canadian 51st state of the United States would not change American politics enormously. Ultimately Canada is just not populated enough to fundamentally alter the status quo.

To be sure, the Democratic Party would probably do a bit better initially. Liberal policies would be a bit more popular; conservative policies a bit less so. Canada would help Democrats in the House of Representatives, probably giving them around two dozen extra representatives (although Democratic strength would probably be diluted by the Quebec independence vote). On the presidential level, Democrats would need the Midwest a bit less. They could win with the John Kerry coalition – but barely so.

The beauty of the two-party system, however, is that the Republican Party would eventually adjust. It would move leftwards, much as it did after the New Deal or Democrats moved rightwards after the Reagan years. Eventually, after adopting more liberal policies, the two parties would again approach equilibrium.

Now…it’s a whole different story if Mexico was part of the United States (and not necessarily one that Democrats would like).

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10 Responses to Part 2: What If Canada Was Part of the United States?

  1. Brett Heffner says:

    If you embark on your Mexico project, perhaps this colour map of Mexican state governorships will help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:State_governments_by_party.svg I dont know how it corresponds with Parliamentary representation of each of the three principal parties.

    • inoljt says:

      I don’t know too much about Mexican electoral geography. But I’m fairly certain that if Mexico and the United States were suddenly to become one, the differences between the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD would become insignificant compared to the vast gulf between the American part and the Mexican part of the union. It would be akin to Southern politics; all Mexicans voting one way, all Americans voting another.

      • Brett Heffner says:

        There would be no oversimplified voting in Mexico even less so than in Canada! There is such a multipolitisation in Mexico and we have no reliable means of translating it into US results! Im not saying that you should abandon the idea, but that you should study Mexican politics if so interested. It is a WAY taller order than you accepted with Canada. I shall attempt to break Canada down shortly. I appreciate the thoughts that count, but lets keep it reasonably manageable. Lets be friendly neighbours.—BDH

  2. Brett Heffner says:

    I dont know how Manitoba would go, but I did say in the first part that GWB would definitely carry Alberta and Newfoundland. I also believe that McCain would do the same. Come to think of it, the map of the actual 2004 outcome plus a blue Canada is reminiscent of the humourous “Jesusland” map, which can be viewed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jesusland_map.svg Just imagine if the Kerry states did secede and form a union with Canada—Kerry would keep our current capital while Bush would relocate his to his choice of Texas city.

    • inoljt says:

      Why and how would Bush and McCain “definitely carry Alberta and Newfoundland?”

      • Walter says:

        Alberta is Texas, without the Mexicans.

        Seriously though, Alberta (and much of the plains region) has been the most conservative area of Canada for decades. It has much similar with the rural areas of Texas and our own plains states, such as the oil and cattle industries, and it also has an individualistic streak. They love black gold (Edmonton Oilers), and they love their beef. They even love rodeo!

        Other areas of Canada are quite analogous (at least in political preference) to cross-border American areas, for obvious reasons; for instance British Columbia is similar to Washington or Oregon (complete with conservative insular areas away from the liberal coast), Southern Ontario outside Toronto to our Midwest (Rust Belt manufacturing), Saskatchewan and Manitoba to our own “bread basket,” the Maritimes to northern New England, etc. The cities- Toronto, Winnipeg, Hamilton- tend to be liberal, just as they are here, while the traditional suburbs are swingy.

        Quebec is the really the only area of Canada with any substantial population that has no American analogue, but it has always been socially and economically liberal, so it’s political performance could be surmised.

  3. random reader says:

    Abit superficial by just adding 50 electoral votes to represent Canada as a whole. Although Ontario and British Columbia are quite liberal, Alberta and Manitoba are more conservative and I would wager could be winnable by a Republican. Dividing electoral votes by Canadian provinces would probably blunt the Democratic advantage even more.

    • inoljt says:

      You are right, it is a bit superficial because as an ignorant American I know nothing about Canadian politics. Notice how I centered the map around the United States, even though Canada is much bigger geographically. ;)

      On a more serious basis, any links or useful context on why and how “Alberta and Manitoba are more conservative?”

  4. Jon in CUO says:

    Great series. Patiently waiting for your Mexican follow-up..

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