Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Liberals Need a Defining Issue

As I have said time and time again, politics is about who is able to define whom. The Liberals need to define the Conservatives. The Liberals understand this of course. What they do not seem to understand is that a winning issue is not always a vote getter. SSM was great example. At the polls it was looser. Canadians were spilt on the issue, but the older one is the more likely one is to be opposed and to vote. The Liberals never understood why SSM was a winning issue. They figured it must have something to do with the popularity of the Charter and as their cherry pick line polled extremely well they went with that. They made themselves out to be the charter’s champion and this led them to propose sealing off the notwithstanding clause and release tapes of Toews spouting off about using it. The fact of the matter is that the SSM was not a winning issue because of anything the Liberals said. It was a winning issue because it left the Conservatives defending a morally, legally, and intellectually untenable position. By proposing to seal away the notwithstanding clause, Martin and company simply diverted attention away from the one issue, and I do mean one, that worked for them last election. The debate switched from can anything positive be said about the Conservative SSM position to do really want to seal of the notwithstanding clause for good?

It would be great if the Conservatives were to deny global warming, which in the public’s mind means dishing Kyoto. However, be rest assured that come next election Harper will throw the likes of Stockwell Day into some broom closet, where they will be kept bound and gagged for the duration of the campaign. Moreover, all the signs are pointing to a NDP and Conservative Clean Air Act Part Two. Layton needs “results” and Harper is happy to oblige; he has no choice but to “commit” to Kyoto. Both are having some success chipping away at the Liberals hope of being the focus of the environmental vote. It is grossly unfair to saddle Dion with Chr├ętien’s dismal environmental record, but just the same some of the mud is bound to stick. In other words, Dion’s ace in the hole is slowly but surely being neutralized.

The Liberals need, so to speak, a new defining issue. One candidate used down south to great effect is the Stem cell debate. The Democrats have successfully painted the Republicans as being a bunch of anti-science hicks on this one. However, the issue is not large enough and most important of all I am sure the Conservatives would take the bait.

Now, another rule of thumb in politics is that you have to repeat a message endlessly for it to have any chance of reaching the average Canadian. That being said, I will once again get on my high hoarse and call for the Liberals to propose legalizing marijuana. Force Stephen Harper into defending an intellectually bankrupt prohibitionist stance alone with the Bush administration and James Dobson. Every word from Dobson and Bush is as good as free ad time as for as the Liberals would be concerned. Indeed, it would be better. Having talked to Dion about the subject I very much doubt he would ever propose such a thing. http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2006/10/interviewing-stephane-dion.html


rabbit said...

A defining issue that will win Liberals an election has to be a major one in the public's mind. Marginal issues like stem-cell research aren't enough. Some issues that could or have been important to sway votes are:

- Economy (always)
- War in Afghanistan
- Free trade (in the past, anyway)
- National unity
- Health
- Corruption

I wouldn't even put the environment on the list, despite its current popularity. Not when I see the number of SUV's on the road and 3500 square foot homes in the suburbs.

Koby said...

What you gave me is the list of major issues. They are the bread and butter of any campaign. What I am talking about is a defining issue. It is an issue that defines for the public what a party is. SSM was one such issue. It was by no means a major issue. Stacked up against Health care, for example, it was small potatoes. However, for many people it defined who the Conservatives are as a party.