The 1995 referendum in Quebec came pretty close to tearing up Canada. The campaign in favour of separation gained just a smidge under 50% of the vote. A swing of less than 1% would have given separatists an unprecedented victory. But, alas, the Parti Quebecois and their leader, Jacques Parizeau, came up just a little bit short. The years of work they had dedicated to their vision of creating the nation of Quebec ended in defeat… and quite a bit of frustration.
Mr. Parizeau, his political career fading, decided to ditch the last of his dignity wtih an attack on Anglophones and minorities (emphasis mine):
“It’s lost, but not by much. But it’s a success, it’s a success in a way. Please, let’s stop talking about the francophones of Quebec, would you? Let’s talk about us: at 60% we voted for (independence). We fought well, and we … we even showed clearly what we wanted. And we missed by a small margin, by a few tens of thousands of voices. Well, in a case like this, what do we do? We spit in our hands and start all over again.
“I really wanted this to go through. I wanted it so badly, like all of you, that it would get through. We were so close to a country. Well, it’s been delayed a little … not for long, not for long … we won’t wait 15 years this time … no, no …
“It’s true, it’s true that we have been defeated, but basically by what? By money and ethnic votes, essentially. So all it means is that, in the next round, instead of being 60 or 61 per cent to vote YES, we will be 63 or 64 per cent and it will suffice. That’s all. But now my friends, in the months that will come, we are going to… Listen: Some people got so afraid that the temptation to take revenge is going to be something! And never again will it be more important to have a Parti Québécois government to protect us until the next time!”
(Source, including the original French version.)
‘The money and ethnic votes’ became the vile epitaph for the Premier’s career. (It is understood that by “money”, he meant Quebec anglophones. The implication was that there were certain people who were ‘real’ Quebecois, or “pure laine“.) No doubt, he was not going to remain in his role with a referendum defeat anyway, so his racist outburst was little more than a tasteless parting shot to his supposed oppressors.
It appears Mitt Romney has had his own ‘Money and ethnic votes’ moment, via the LA Times:
Obama, Romney argued, had been “very generous” to blacks, Hispanics and young voters. He cited as motivating factors to young voters the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and the extension of health coverage for students on their parents’ insurance plans well into their 20s. Free contraception coverage under Obama’s healthcare plan, he added, gave an extra incentive to college-age women to back the president.
Romney argued that Obama’s healthcare plan’s promise of coverage “in perpetuity” was “highly motivational” to those voters making $25,000 to $35,000 who might not have been covered, as well as to African American and Hispanic voters. Pivoting to immigration, Romney said the Obama campaign’s efforts to paint him as “anti-immigrant” had been effective and that the administration’s promise to offer what he called “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants had helped turn out Hispanic voters in record numbers.
“The president’s campaign,” he said, “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”
Clearly, Mr. Romney’s comments do not sink quite as far into the muck as Mr. Parizeau’s. Nonetheless, a touch of grace, rather than a focus on race, would serve him well.