(WASHINGTON POST) Lawrence H. Summers — Lawrence H. Summers, the Charles W. Eliot university professor at Harvard, is a former treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council in the White House. He is writing occasional posts, to be featured on Wonkblog, about issues of national and international economics and policymaking.
The Canadian Liberal Party won an overwhelming victory in Monday’s election. Voters decisively rejected the ruling Conservative Party and placed the Liberal Party far ahead of the left wing New Democratic Party. This is obviously important for Canada. But there are also two lessons here for American political observers.
First, polls often get it wrong. As in Britain, and now the Canadian election, results were much more decisive than had been expected. A Liberal majority looked extremely unlikely two months ago. Even three days ago, I suspect Liberals would have been thrilled if they could have counted on a clear plurality of the vote. An era when less than 10 percent of voters respond to pollsters, and where mass opinion changes rapidly, will be one where Election Day is again a day of drama.
Second, in an era of extraordinarily low interest rates and slow growth, it is becoming increasingly clear that progressives do best when they reject austerity and embrace public investment. The British Labour Party and the Canadian NDP sought to demonstrate their soundness by embracing budget balancing as an objective. Their results were terrible.