Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Seeing Red - The Future of the Liberal Party of Canada
Live by videofeed - "Well Oprah, the healing process has really been the twin realization that I was a huge part of the problem, and that the problem is much huger than myself"
To give you an idea how stubborn the mainstream media is in Canada when it comes to pushing their agenda and vision, even when that vision is resoundingly rejected in a democratic election, look no further than the editorial content and articles in the country's newspapers in the week following the federal election.
Aside from conceding outright victory to Stephen Harper, which is obvious given the majority situation, the papers have spent the majority of their time trivializing and belittling the official NDP opposition for being largely made up of "kids". Middle aged commentators might feel license to practice such dismissive condescension, and argue that the Official Opposition has no credibility because of its lack of "experience", but I would like to remind them of something. Fifty, forty, thirty, and perhaps as late as even twenty years ago, the vast majority of these new MPs, at their age, would have been married homeowners with children. This idea of adulthood beginning at 35 or 40 is a recent thing. We should remember that eighteen remains the legal age in Canada to vote, join the army, marry, obtain credit, sign a lease or a mortgage, act as a legal guardian, and do many other things, including hold elected public office, and there is a very good reason for this. It is only in our contemporary society of man-children, rampant childish and insolent behaviour, and complicated demographic and economic factors that humiliate ADULTS into behaving like kids until age 30 that suddenly, accomplishing something before age 45 will subject you to derision, mockery, and insults from your elder citizens. Most people realize this, even subconsciously, which is why there is no movement to raise the official, legal, age of majority.
Alas, the "kids" aged 19-27 who have gotten that "job" the older generation exhorts their "lazy" asses to find with all of their subtle, know-it-all snippeting the rest of the time, do have a lot to prove, and will have to earn the trust and confidence of their constituents to get re-elected. However, rather than focusing on this real work by real elected officials that really will or really will not take place, the media has instead focused on the hypothetical and the speculative. The NDP's 102 seat performance is chalked up to fluke, luck, and chance, and the Liberal party's 34 seat embarrassment is being rigourously analyzed as a blip, a mistake, and a punishment, all of which can easily be redressed with some rebuilding, re-networking, or a strong and dynamic leader, depending on which commentator in disbelief you talk to.
The argument of all these pundits is that there is a slice of the electorate that is "centrist", it is the biggest, and it is the key to capturing the right to govern. Even though we are all Canadians with one vote and one choice, most of us (progressives, unionists, environmentalists, christian evangelicals, western separatists, Quebec separatists, entrepreneurs, and communists) are discredited and ignored over this "muddy middle", which is considered a winner take all prize even though it only represents a segment of the electorate. Sort of how every American presidential election comes down to Ohio and a dozen "swing states". Electoral math has replaced all substance and ideas in the political discourse. Even though the NDP won by a landslide over the liberals even in this department, the pundits still can't accept it. They really are deluded enough to think if the Liberals can steal 10% of Conservatives' votes (which have been stolen from them) back, they will return to power.
My theory is that by virtue of holding prominent positions in media and society, self-identified Liberals mistake their status and position with influence over Canadian society and the Canadian electorate. The problem is that this "establishment" (which has withered away to shadow of its mighty former self) is a bubble, and because it is a bubble, they have been totally deaf to the message which has just been delivered to them. From here, it looks like they seem hell-bent on repeating the Kim Campbell, Progressive Conservative 2 seat debacle of 1993.
Instead of looking at "What the Liberals have to do/say to get back in power" or "Who should oversee the rebuilding of the Liberal Party", like the media has been wasting its time doing, I am going to show anyone who is reading, including liberals, excerpts from the party's trajectory under Michael Ignatieff, and then ask them why anybody would ever seriously consider voting for this party again.
His first major move was to allow 6 Newfoundlander MPs to ride a then fresh wave of anti-Harper sentiment in the province created by then-Premier Danny Williams' "Anything But Conservative" campaign by voting against the February 2009 budget. He warned this was a "one-time pass" with about as much authority as a rookie substitute teacher.
Not wanting to mince words or cause any doubt among the millions of progressive and environmentalist voters his party hoped to court, another early move was to call the tar sands a "national treasure" and a "world leader", and piped in that "he didn't need any lessons from National geographic" about them. Notwithstanding the looks of disbelief on Canadian voters hoping to be rid of Harper in the next election, the effort was wasted on Alberta.
10 months after coming to power, on September 2, 2009, the unknown and untested leader announces to the Prime Minister (and the world) "Mr Harper, your time is up." Google this phrase (it comes up fast) and you will see how bad the leader got shredded from this debut. Of course, his party would go on to prop up the Conservatives for two more years.
Bombarded with questions about the coalition, which you would think as a professor he would know is perfectly legitimate in parliamentary democracy, he stole the line "not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary," from Mackenzie King, a real prime minister talking about a real problem in 1944, replacing "conscription" with "coalition". Sadly, the attempt at historical irony probably did nothing other than cause confusion and ammo for conservative attack ads in 2009.
The one worthwhile initiative put forth by a Liberal member in the 40th parliament, the responsible mining bill, by Scarborough MP John Mackay, was defeated. This would have sought to introduce some accountability and transparency into the thousands of mining companies listed on the TSX that mine everything all around the globe, including in some very poor and undeveloped countries. Ignatieff didn't show up for the vote, along with 10 or 11 other Liberal MPs who were too chickenshit to actually stand up for the public interest by holding these companies actions to scrutiny, since they are subjected to none now.
Then there was a twitter account announcing and unending number of speeches nobody read or listened to, bus tours and barbecques that were well-received but only ever seemed to drive the poll numbers down, shameless pandering during the NHL playoffs by weighing in on Max Pacioretty's concussion and donning a Canucks jersey, and the nonsense about his dad ( a Russian count who lived in Forest Hill and sent his sons to Upper Canada College) laying track in British Columbia. Plus the Howard Dean moment during the campaign where he whipped himself into a frenzy and yelled at the crowd in Sudbury to "Rise up"
Although I don't want to salt wounds or commit personality attacks on people, witnessing all this stuff was worse than a car wreck. On paper it may have sounded good, but Canadians generally have pretty good education levels and don't like fakes and bullshitters. These things were all so ill-timed and awkward, its hard to believe Ignatieff himself even believed they were working. If anything, he deserves credit for torturing himself (albeit, for almost 300,000$ a year) by plastering that fake smile on every day. But the Liberal Party deserves none for wincing, covering their eyes, ducking away, gasping, and biting their nails all the way through it, while nervously standing behind this poser and telling themselves it might still work. (Yes, that's what he was. A poser)
That's what you get when you have a party that runs itself like a chewing gum ad. A party that has convinced itself that there are legions of people out there that supports it no matter what it does. A party that takes Canadians for granted, on the basis that, for reasons fewer and fewer people can understand, it considers itself virtuous.
This is a party that has pursued more free-trade policies than any other. A party that has just as bad an environmental record as the Conservatives. A party that still thinks it can arrogantly wag its finger at Quebec and tell it whats best for it even though Quebec stopped caring 30 years ago. This is a party that believes in subsidizing businesses with taxpayer money, and in sending the Canadian military to contribute to the American-led resource shaft-grab in the middle east. They can blather on about their one remaining bit of ground, "Health Care, Families, and Ordinary Canadians" all they want, but the Conservatives have shifted all their policies to maintain the Liberal-established status quo on any and all social programs in these areas. Not to mention all the pro-life, anti-gay marraige, anti-abortion social conservatives in the Liberal caucus, like the M.P. Jim Karygiannis in Scarborough-Agincourt, where I grew up. This guy, who is the longest serving M.P. in the house of commons (What does that say about where I come from) has the worst attendance record for votes in the last five parliaments. Since the election his seniority (and the incredibly small number of Liberal MPs) has seen him taking a lot of questions and speaking on behalf of the party way more.
I think his record speaks for itself, the fact he is acting as spokesperson for this party speaks for itself, the last leader's record speaks for itself, and the party's record speaks for itself. If the Liberal Party ever gets around to deciding to stand for something, maybe it has hope. On second thought, the brand has suffered irreparable damage. Screw it. Send all the old useless reticent dead weight to the Conservatives, if they want them, and merge with the NDP. You will still win every election here on out. And if you purge that element that wants to chase centre-right voters, you will purge most of the arrogance and hubris that prevents you from acknowledging reality and doing basic math. Because amazingly, not even being reduced to 3rd part status for the 1st time since Confederation has.