U.S. Presidential Candidates compared to Canadian political parties

Since Howard Dean, the new Chairman of the Democratic Party, spoke at Canada’s Liberal Pary leadership convention last year, I think most people commonly make the false comparison that:

U.S. Democratic Party = Canadian Liberal Party

U.S. Republican Party = Canadian Conservative Party

This causes lots of problems and misconceptions amongst both Canadians and Americans, but especially amongst Canadians.  Canadians tend to root for the U.S. Democratic Party because they feel they’re similar to our ‘natural governing party’ (present circumstances excepted), the Liberals.

But, as I, and many others have attempted to point out, this is very far from the truth of the matter.

I recently decided to have some fun with politicalcompass.org‘s placement of political parties and personalities in Canada and the U.S.. 

The site lists both Canada’s political parties and the contenders for the 2008 U.S. Presidential on a standard, two-axis grid with the left/right x axis representing economic matters and the up/down y axis representing social matters (with the top being the most conservative and state-interventionist and the bottom being the most libertarian).

While the site doesn’t list Canada’s political parties on the same grid as the 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates, I was able to superimpose them over each other, scale them to match, and then transcribe them onto this grid to demonstrate that the Democrats are NOT anywhere near the same as the Liberals and the Republicans are NOT anywhere near the same as the Conservatives.


As you can see, and as we socialists have been saying for as long as I can remember, the American system is brilliantly devised to always provide an extremely narrow range of opinions which are acceptable for serious candidates to have — more so even than in Canada.  Ignoring the two fringe candidates for the Democratic party who don’t have the backing of enough capitalists to make even a moderately serious run, the allowable opinion divergence covers roughly 28 cells, or, if you like, only 1.1% of the entire available political spectrum.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are much more open than the Democrats at accepting divergent political opinions.  Their spread (again excluding the one fringe candidate who has yet to poll above the margin of error of having any support at all for more than one consecutive poll), covers an area of 33 cells — or only 1.3% of the entire political spectrum.

So we know that American’s have a cumulative choice of only an extremely narrow range of policy options with more than 95% of possible policy opinions in the U.S. being excluded from the mainstream which their capitalistic system permits.

But even the narrow ranges permissible in America do not line up as people commonly think they do:  Liberal = Democrat, Conservative = Republican.

Except for John Edwards, every one of the Democratic Party’s candidates would be Conservatives if they were in Canada — and some of them, such as Bill Richardson, would even be considerably to the right of the Conservatives.

Conversely, the man portrayed as ‘ultra-extreme’ left in the States — Kucinich — would actually be a pretty boring, run-of-the-mill NDP backbencher in Canada.  He would probably closely approximate a Pat Martin or so.  Which, as you can see, in the grand scheme of things, is merely centre-left.

So, should Canadians be rooting for a Democratic victory in ’08 as we always do?  Obama?  Clinton?  Edwards?

I’d say no.  I’d say that more than anything, Canadians — and our American comrades too for that matter — should, in my opinion, be hoping that the Americans’ perverse political and electoral system collapses under its own weight.  Only once Americans have a complete ‘reboot’ of their political system, will they be able to enjoy even a modicum degree of control…. or at least a modicum of control over what brand of capitalist overlords they want to have.

A Democrat in the White House simply won’t cut it.


See also:

How to appear tough on terrorism without doing anything

45 Responses to “U.S. Presidential Candidates compared to Canadian political parties”

  1. 1 KUBERA JONES 27 August, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    It’s definately true the average lefty in the states is right by our standards, the rep and dems are just slightly different on social issues but are all war mongering egotist set to rule the world.

    I don’t get how Paul ended up on the top side of the horizontal axis, yes he’s anti abortion but since he defers the right to decide such issues to the individual states I think the test fails his nuances.

    I don’t care dem or rep but do think Ron Paul would make the best neighbour, he believes in fair trade not managed trade and he believes the U.S. should mind it’s own business. However his stand on the IRS and Federal reserve would see him assassinated within 2 months of election. See history for two attempts, poison and guns, against Jackson who killed the previous Central Bank.

  2. 2 KUBERA JONES 27 August, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    oh yeha, I Particularly like the fact that the “Radical tree hugging” Greens are the most centerist party in Canada. I wish everyone realized that.

  3. 3 Dan 27 August, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    I think Dennis Perrin is writing a book on the Democratic Party in the US – particularly with regard to foreign policy and war. In effect I think he’s going to flesh out what your little graph indicates. Do you read his blog ever?

  4. 4 Michael 29 August, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    This was fun. I think I gave accurate answers reflecting my thinking as it now stands, but ended up much more “libertarian” than I expected. Economically I was within the NDP range so that was no suprise.

    Of course one could argue that the “centre” is not the meeting of the x and y axes (or point zero on either), but the average or consensus position , within a country, either on each individual issue, or overall for both economic or social issues.

  5. 5 paulitics 29 August, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Dan – no I’ve never heard of him. What’s his angle?

  6. 6 Jeremy 31 August, 2007 at 12:27 am

    What’s very interesting, is that if you consider the social & foreign policies of Ron Paul & Dennis Kucinich, they are very similar, and adhere to principles of international pacifism and moral/social/behavioural libertarianism.

    It is true that their economic policies are virtually opposite (Paul is for Laissez-Faire Capitalism, Kucinich is for Democratic Socialism), but their social and foreign polices are very much alike.

  7. 7 Jeremy 31 August, 2007 at 12:35 am

    One other thing…

    Like many of you, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is not much difference between the policies & effects of Neo-Liberalism and the policies & effects of Neo-Conservatism : it’s really just a matter of degree (severity).

    Martin & Harper tend to implement each other’s agendas to large extent.

    They sure go to vitriolic war though (here AND in the US), bombarding the general populace with megadoses of political sabre-rattling, and duping many into the fallacy of false alternative … “Who shall I vote for, Neo-Liberal 1a or Neo-Conservative 1b ?”

  8. 8 paulitics 31 August, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Jeremy, I do agree with you 100% on the lack of a choice between Martin and Harper — and between the Democrats and the Republicans — however I do disagree with you that Ron Paul and Kucinich’s social positions are identical.

    Take the example of same-sex marriage. Both Ron Paul and Kucinich may oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but unlike Kucinich, Ron Paul actually DOES personally oppose same sex marriage and believes deep down in his heart of hearts that it’s wrong even though he just doesn’t feel it’s the business of the U.S. federal government to have an opinion on the matter. So while their policies speciously end up the same, the values which animate them couldn’t be more different. Kucinich, on the other hand, opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage because he believes that it’s just plain wrong whereas Paul’s motivations are much less nobel in my eyes.

    So I think we need to look at that as well.

  9. 9 Dan 31 August, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t know how best to summarize Perrin, but he’s a pretty eager critic of the Democrats and even liberal bloggers in the US. He’s also a satirist who uses gleanings from his former friendship with Christopher Hitchens to mock Hitch periodically. I’d just say check him out: http://dennisperrin.blogspot.com/

  10. 10 Jeremy 1 September, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Paul, so we agree on the fact that the Neo-Liberals are merely abiding by and delivering diluted, waffling versions Neo-Conservatism.

    But on the issue of similarities between the social & foreign policies among the Social Democrats & Libertarians, please don’t be narrowly dismissive.

    You chose just 1 issue, and merely proved that Paul is slightly more authoritarian than his independant predecessor (Badnarik). Consider all social policy issues, from Cannabis criminalization to abortion to school prayer, and all other possible Fallwellian excursions, and you’ll find that the positions are 80-90% similar 80-90% of the time.

    You are correct that they are not replicatic/identical. But as someone who interviewed Libertarians from the US east coast in the 1980’s, and compared their responses to 1980 NDP’ers such as Jill Vickers and Gerald Caplan, I can assuere you that they both want gov’t OUT of personal, victimless acts, by consenting adults.

    Next, compare the spot on the authoritarian axis (politicalcompass.org) reached by Layton and (Michael) Badnarik. Very very close.

    Now look at Kucinich & Paul. Close as well, but Paul is slightly deviating from the traditional Libertarian social policy stances, likely because he branded himself an “R” to legitamize his candidacy.

    Tragically, for him, he’s compromised his “gov’t out of the bedroom” principle to a fairly significant degree by teaming up with the Neo-Fascists.

    Again, their economic policies are radically different, but their foreign and especially social policies are quite similar (though not identical), and they likely share some same general principles with their opposition to gov’t authoritarianism in social policy matters, as well as foreign policy matters.

    Btw, the US would be better served if the Republican renegade (Paul) was the right-wing voice, while Kucinich was the left-wing voice.

    They are both honest, transparent, rational and constitutionally minded.

    Though of course, Paul’s faithful embrace of Capitalism is a dogmatic repudiation of empirical reality, where as Kucinich’s embrace of social democracy can be easily justified by the Nordic-Scandinavian experiment.

  11. 11 paulitics 1 September, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Jeremy – I wasn’t trying to be dismissive you, in fact, quite the contrary. I fundamentally agree with your contention that Ron Paul and Kucinich’s social positions end up looking the same. I did however want to add to your point and draw people’s attention to something which I thought to be important to point out: namely that the values which animate Paul’s position, in my eyes, are much more mean-spirited than those which animate Kucinich’s position.

    It’s hard to dismiss a position which I agree with.

  12. 12 Jeremy 3 September, 2007 at 12:18 am

    And I shall not dismiss your non-dismissal.

    Let me restate and pursue a few variations on the theme.

    There seems to be a humanitarian disconnect if you look closely at each & all of the policy stiplulations of Libertarian Badnarik, and to a slightly lesser extent, Libertarian Paul.

    In regards to economics, they go full pedal to the medal with their faithful embrace of unbridled Capitalism, oblivious to empirical reality which proves that the degree of capitalism correlates with the degree of poverty (rates) and elitist concentration of wealth among the top 10% of the population based on total wealth & average annual income.

    They ignore the humanitarian evaluational process entirely, and ignore the effects (of capitalist economic policy [DOGMA]), in order to blindly advocate for the “inalienable and absolute right to accumulate extreme & exponential amounts of wealth”, regardless of the subsequent poverty rates, income gaps, or lack of wealth distribution.

    Yet, when it comes to social & foreign policy, they suddenly have their eyes & ears open to the on-the-ground humanitarian impact of destructive Neo-Liberal & Neo-Conservative policies. Suddenly, and overtly, they agree with social democrats and democratic socialists that persecution, criminalization and demonization of non-violent consentual acts between adults destroys / negatively impacts lives and is the root of the problem. As well, they stipulate that aggressive, preemptive, secretive & manipulative militarism has the same sort of deleterious *anti-humanitarian* impact.

    IOW, they concur with leftists, by accepting the principle of *retaliatory* force as the only justifiable recourse, and *only* to be used as a last resort in scenarios involving an overt threat which implements a blatant *initiation* of physical force. Subsequently, in social issues, they’ll (generally) agree that using punitive force (via morality squads, the military, or the gov’t) is wrong and anti-humanitarian because it persecutes and criminalizes consenting non-violent adult behaviour based on authoritarian religious puritanicalism. Also, they’ll generally agree that Bushian militarism is murderous, destructive and antithetical to humanitarianism, empathy, universal human rights and quality of life.

    Basically, their economic policy is ruthless, cold, heartless and dogmatic, but then their humanitarian light switch suddenly comes on for issues not related strictly to economics.

    A curiosity, I suppose (of mine at least).

  13. 14 Rick D. 17 September, 2007 at 2:52 am


    I am someone who used to have more standardized Liberal beliefs when he was young, but ultimately came to be mostly Libertarian. For me, the idea of blending what is tradionally considered ‘Liberal’ social stances with ‘Conservative’ economic stances could not make more sense, and it is the tradional left and right wing diagonal on above graph that seems to be the walking contradiction. Both Economic Left and Social Right policies stem from a certain degree of Fascist arrogance, i.e. the idea that you know so completely well what is the correct the decision for my life, that it is perfectly OK for you to force me to do what you want me to.

    A social Liberal might say that, right or wrong, the choice of what I do with my own body, such as what drugs I take or whom I have sex with, are my choices, and perhaps my mistakes, that I must be free to make. However, when it comes to planning my retirement, I am apparently an incompetent idiot who must be forced at gunpoint to contribute to the American Social Security program, which when I retire will give me roughly half the money to live on that I would have made through the simplist of private investments (literally walking into a bank and saying “I want a savings account” will get you a better return on your money than Social Security will). Plus, in the meantime, making me manditorily pay a hunk of my salary every year severely limits my options and prosperity and also the growth of the economy around me, thus limiting further the oppourtunites present for me.

    You speak of policy in terms of something that is “cold, heartless,” or warm and “humanitarian”, and I understand what you mean, but to some extent, you are arguing that intentions are the only thing that matter, not results. It could perhaps be said that those with economically Liberal beliefs have their heart in the right place, but unfortuantely the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and unless that heart is combined with logic and intellect the best intentions of the best people can lead to disaster. As in my above example, I have no doubt that Social Security and many social programs were started with the good intent of helping people, but many are quite simply, when you look at them, bad ideas.

    Also, you will often see both the Left and the Right advocate Government control (of you) in service of those ‘less fortunate’ or those who ‘cannot help themselves’. With the Social Right, you often see them evoke children to this effect: “We have to censor television because of the children!” or perhaps “We have to keep Marajuana illegal to prevent it from falling into the hands of helpless children!”. Of course, you eventualy learn that the Social Right evoking chilrdren is usually just an excuse to treat YOU like a child. Now, you may have nodded along with that point, but you have to realize that Liberals are perfectly capable of treating you like a child too, just with Economic issues. Please note that whenever someone evokes Government involvement to ‘help people’, they are almost NEVER talking about themselves…THEY are fine. They don’t need your help, and would prefer to make their own decisions about their life, thank you very much…it’s this imagined sub-culture, who apparently has brains which work differently from our own, who don’t have the ability to value and appreciate freedom of choice like we do (think of the arrogance of that) that require us to enact all these Government controls on everything.

    I could go on for a while talking about tons of other issues, but I’ll stop here (also because I’m tired and need to get to sleep). All I will simply say is, the more I have learned and observed about politics, the more consistantly Libertarian I have become. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve read like 10000 internet arguments about politics, and seen the Libertarians consistantly be the most reasoned and well-informed of anyone, and ususally able to out-argue both Liberals and Conservatives on many things. Anyway, that’s what I’ve got to say, thanks for reading.

  14. 15 Fireball 5 January, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Paulitics where do you fall on the political compass?

  15. 16 paulitics 8 January, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Fireball, I posted a graph with my location on the political compass relative to various thinkers and world leaders a while back.

    You can access it here, if you’re still interested.


    (Please excuse the tardiness of the reply, I just returned from vacation earlier today).

  16. 17 Gordon 5 November, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I find this chart very interesting, but could you explain the placement of the Canadian parties? When I look at http://www.politicalcompass.org/canada2008, I see that the Green party is slightly to the Authoritarian side; but in your graph, the Green party is slightly to the Libertarian side. Similarly with the NDP vs Bloc – On your graph the NDP is less libertarian, but on the political compass graph, they are more libertarian.

    Is there additional information that I’m missing? Have the parties changed over the past year? When I superimpose the two graphs, it seems that Obama would be a Liberal in Canada.


  17. 18 paulitics 5 November, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Gordon,

    You raised an excellent point in your comment.

    The reason why there is the discrepancy between my graph and the Political Compass Canada2008 graph is that my graph above was written in August 2007 and thus it used Political Compass’s 2006 data. Political Compass generates its estimates for party positions based on the party platforms for that year’s elections. The various parties did shift (at least according to political compass) between 2006 and 2008 which accounts for the discrepancy.

    I think, based on your comment, I will have to put a disclaimer on this post (since it still gets regular traffic) letting people know that the data used to make the graph is slightly out of date.


  18. 19 Toronto Family Man 20 February, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    What’s sad is that there are no political parties in Canada to represent me. My poltical views fall in the upper left quadrant (Social conservative and economic left) although not too extreme on either end. Maybe between Conservative Party on the social axis and Bloc Quebecois on the economic axis.

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