In the lobby of the Marriott hotel in downtown Charlotte, Congressman Barney Frank posed for photos with adoring Democratic Party delegates.
He spoke briefly to the Globe and Mail about the state of the campaign, the achievements of the Barack Obama presidency and why he thinks America can learn a lesson or two from Canada.
“We have people in America who say you can’t have a genuine democracy unless you have unlimited campaign spending,” said the retiring Massachusetts congressman and openly gay politician, who is opposed to new financing rules that allow outside groups to raise unlimited funds for political groups.
These Super PACs have played an instrumental role so far.
“Well, I like that Canada is a refutation of that. Canada shows that that’s nonsense,” said Mr. Frank.
His admiration for Canada goes further. Canada is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to “defusing the prejudice based on gender identities and sexual orientation.”
“And it’s a good sign that you don’t have to be homophobic to be a sensible society,” he said. The Democratic Party platform, released late Monday night, backs same-sex marriage.
Government activity in lives of citizens in a way that is compatible with economic growth was another Canadian example the U.S. could learn from, he added.
That view on the role of government is anathema to many Republicans who associate the Obama presidency with an expansion of government and increased spending.
Still, Mr. Frank cited President Obama’s health-care overhaul and his own bill to regulate Wall Street and the financial industry – signed into law by Mr. Obama in 2010 – as key achievements. Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal the Dodd-Franks Act.
“I think five years from now [the two laws] will be seen as enormous improvements in American society,” said Mr. Frank.
Mr. Frank also cited the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward serving gay and lesbian personnel.
With two months before voting day, the presidential campaigns are locked in a close race with Mr. Obama holding a slight edge in national polls.
“I think it’s tighter in the popular vote than the electoral vote,” said Mr. Frank. “I think the President is clearly ahead in the electoral vote,” he added. A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes.
The Obama campaign and its “hope and change” candidate of 2008 is now fighting a bitter campaign to win re-election.
The negative tone in 2012 tone is jarring for some voters who remember the candidate who sought to change how politics is done in Washington.
But Mr. Frank defended the Obama campaign against the “right-wing vicious people spending unlimited amounts of money.”
“What is a President to do? Smile and dance? He is responding appropriately to the kind of campaign that is being run against him.”