Monday, January 09, 2012

Beware of those selling "pragmatism"

Politics can not be reduced to bad technocratic approaches and good ones. There are real philosophical differences as to what is good and what is bad. Without such agreement you are not going to have the common ground necessary to compare different approaches. Perhaps the level of ideological agreement is such that many people of lost site of this fact. If so, it is sad commentary on the state of Canadian politics.

Why should Liberals care? Well, the Liberals can not win by continuing to try to be all things to all people and they 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.

So, how should the Liberals philosophically differentiate themselves from the NDP? Well, the Liberals need to return to the roots and abandon asymmetrical federalism once and far all. Liberal embrace of such a philosophy damaged the Liberal brand, always gave lie to any attempt to draw a straight line between now and glory years of the 1960s and it paid no divides in Quebec whatsoever. Besides, by rejecting asymmetrical federalism the Liberals will be in solid position to sow divisions between NDP's nationalist Quebec base and its BC base -- which is opening hostel to such an approach. Of course, asymmetrical federalism is only one reason why the Liberal party has unraveled and became philosophically untenable. The other reason is the failed generation's support for collective rights and equity. The Liberal party was not alone in this regard. 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.

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.

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