Thursday, June 02, 2011

Liberals need to differentiate themselves philosophically

Liberals can not win by trying to be all things to all people and certainly have no hope of raising money that way. Moreover, in an ironic twist of fate the Liberals have to present themselves as an alternative to both the NDP and Conservatives. The Liberals have long maintained that there was only ever two real choices. It is increasingly looking like the Canadian public agrees; either one votes NDP or one votes Conservative. In large chucks of the country the Liberals are fighting it out with the Greens for 4th spot.

The Liberals need to first differentiate themselves from the other parties philosophically and then develop policies that flow from those principles. In so doing, they need to aim to sow divisions between their opponents. With regard to the Conservatives, the Liberals need to drive a wedge between libertarians and theo cons by championing social liberalism in way that the Liberal party has not done since Trudeau introduced his omnibus bill. Doing so is also the only hope the Liberals have of making inroads into Quebec. With regard to the NDP, the Liberals need to sow divisions between NDP's Quebec base and its base outside of Quebec by firmly rejecting asymmetrical federalism. There seems to be some agreement among bloggers and pundits alike that the Liberals should do so. However, the Liberals need to go further -- much further. Asymmetrical federalism is only one reason why the Liberal party has unraveled and became philosophically untenable. The other reasons is the failed generation's support for collective rights and equity. Of course, the Liberal party was not the only party hurt by the adoption of such principles. The NDP's support for these principles have long rankled many traditional working class voters. Most moved to the Reform party in 1990s and stayed on with the Conservatives, but others have slowly started to migrate back to the NDP. The Liberals need to rip open those scabs. Support for equity sows division and if successful succeeds only in shuffling the deck. The Liberals could greatly improve and simplify their messaging by promising to improve the lot of all by promising board based social programs built around the principle of universality.


Anonymous said...

I think the biggest thing the Liberal$ need to do is get some policies and take a position on something, instead of talking out of both sides of their mouth and trying to tell each audience what they think they want to hear.

Canadians have caught on to the act and I think view the red book for what it seems to be, the "book of lies"

Koby said...

In words of great voting behavior researcher Philip Converse, the vast majority of voters show a lack of “constraint”: That is, they hold incompatible beliefs.

Liberals, of course, no this and have have shamelessly held inherently contradictory policies in hopes of capitalizing on both sides of a particular issue. Take Marijuana. On the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chr├ętien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand, just as they long downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have long stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Both positions are popular with the public, but run the two positions together and it is as if Chr├ętien said this instead. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” If the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to mix an acknowledgment on behalf of the Liberal party that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

Far from helping the Liberals such an approach probably harmed them. It pissed off the ardent supporters of both sides of the political divide at the same time and prevented them from saying anything intelligent about various issues.

More importantly such a tendency will not help them raise money or garner any kind of media. coverage.

The Liberals have a choice either become an issue party or go the way of the Dodo.

Anonymous said...

Kody, well said.

I too haven't seen any actual liberalism from Canada's Liberal Party in a long time. How could slashing the federal budget for social services have anything to do with ensuring Equal Opportunity?