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Trace the trajectories of the Canadian and American conservative parties and you will find significant similarities. Since the 1980s, the more raw-boned elements in our Conservatives and their Republicans have each asserted control. The fallout is still being felt.

In Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Jon Meacham's adulatory book on the first president Bush, you get a sense of the dramatic shift on the Republican side. What a gentleman was papa George, compared with the Grand Old Party's current preachers and screechers. The Republicans have gone from a temperate lot to Tea Party hard-liners to the tumult of the Ted Cruzes and Donald Trumps.

The divisions will play out, probably brutally. A showdown between the troglodytes and the moderates is soon to happen.

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The Democrats also have their divisions. Semi-socialist Bernie Sanders is the most radical challenger for the crown to come along in decades. But, unlike the insult brigade on the GOP side, the Democrats are running a dignified campaign.

It's in keeping with Barack Obama's high behavioural standards. David Brooks, the conservative sage at The New York Times, was pointing out in a recent column how Mr. Obama, unlike the Republicans, has a quality called class. He wrote of the Democrat President's "integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance."

The piece hardly endeared him to GOP fellow travellers. But he, like many Americans, has been appalled by the divisiveness and rancour in Republican precincts, highlighted by what The Washington Post calls "the utter ugliness of Donald Trump's campaign."

North of the border, Conservatives have had no shortage of experience with crass acts. Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford brought disgrace to the conservative name. Former prime minister Stephen Harper's team was noted for a long run of dirty deeds. It's the way the hard right in both countries does business. Class act isn't part of the equation.

How costly has it been? After the past election, several Tories said their cause was hurt by what they gently referred to as the "tone" problem. By tone, they mean things such as race-baiting, enemies lists and running a closed government.

In the party now, things are calm under the measured, impressive interim leadership of Rona Ambrose. But don't be surprised when the leadership race moves into high gear to see a reckoning, a pitched battle between the hard right and moderates for control of the party.

Critical will be to see whether the Conservatives have learned from their election experience. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's leadership illustrates how important "tone" can be. He has been riding high, not so much because of what he has done, but how he is doing it.

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Writing an election post-mortem on these pages last week, Jenni Byrne, the Conservatives' campaign architect, didn't even cite the integrity issue, nor did party strategist Ken Boessenkool in an earlier appraisal. Until the past election, the party did well politically via Mr. Harper's autocratic methods. He won three of five elections, a 60-per-cent ranking. That's good, though by our historical standards not imposing, Higher winning averages were achieved by prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Louis St. Laurent, Mackenzie King, Robert Borden, Wilfrid Laurier and John A. Macdonald.

Ms. Byrne said it was the country's mood for change that brought on the recent defeat and expressed confidence that the party can win back power in 2019. If history is any guide, that will be a mighty tall order. New leaders who come to power in Canada with a majority almost always retain power in the following election. In the past 140 years, there has been only one exception, it being R.B. Bennett, who was felled by the Great Depression.

In the United States, the Democrats have been in power almost eight years. The time-for-change argument plays to the Republicans' favour. But if they are to win, they will have to bridge their divides, a thorny task given the presence of Mr. Trump.

On this side of the border, Conservatives have more time to sort out their divides and their future.

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