Thursday, April 19, 2012

The center is not what the Liberals think it to be

The center of Canadian politics is not so much a place as a pose. How something is said is often more important than the substance of what is said. What the Liberals have failed realize is it also matters who is saying it. Striking the right pose is not enough. How centrist a party is deemed depends in no small measure on the party's chances of electoral success. In other words, the center often turns out to be no more than who is at the center of Canadian politics. The fact that millions more Canadians than ever before voted NDP confirmed for Canadians that the NDP has moved to the center. As with the Reform party after 1993, in the beginning the deed. Defined as such the Liberals have no hope of occupying the center. The party is no longer at the center of Canadian politics; the NDP and Conservatives occupy that spot.

So what do the Liberals to do? For starters the Liberals must accept just how dire their situation. Namely, the party will be lucky to survive the next election yet alone win it. Thomas Mulcair poses an existential threat to the party. Mulcair will hold onto Quebec and in so doing will recreate the same conditions that saw the Liberals wiped out in Ontario in 2011. With no prospect of the Liberals winning anything out West or in Quebec, suburban Toronto will again break for the Tories, and urban Toronto for the NDP. Only this time the situation will be worse. The same thing could happen in Montreal and into the Maritimes. If the 2011 election proved anything, it was that the Canadian population feels no loyalty to the "natural governing party" whatsoever.

The only chance the Liberals have avoiding the fate of the Progressive Conservative party is not as Andrew Coyne has said being "more Conservative than the Conservatives on some issues, more NDP than the NDP on others." No, the party must aim to blow up the status quo. It must strike a revolutionary pose and not a "centrist" one. The party must seek out confrontation not consensus. Let the bleeding hearts bleed. It should no longer concern itself with what is politically possible, constitutionally possible or what the Americans might say. Let the chips fall where they may. Sacred cows need to be slayed. Only then will the party stand the chance of attracting enough loyal followers to fight further elections.

Needless to say, Charlottetown Bob is not the man for the job.


Anonymous said...

And here I thought the Party was rebuilding and listening to the grass-roots.

And I believed that working hard in our individual ridings was doing just that.

Rather than wringing our hands and proclaiming the end is near.

kitt said...

And the theme of the revolution is ???????

Anonymous said...

graceful and elegant bearing in a person "Poise and good deportment can be cultivated."

present or constitute a problem or danger "The sheer number of visitors poses a threat to the area."

kirbycairo said...

Survival for the sake of survival?? Sometimes parties simply outlive their time and purpose. It is time for the Liberal Party to face up to the fact that neo-liberalism was an abject failure and that it left the centre long ago with a significant ideological move (at least at the economic level) to the right. This move simply made them irrelevant. I appreciated the once great Liberal Party but the time is passed now. I am all for revolutionary changes if they mean something but not for their own sake. What we need is a party that embraces real democratic changes, real accountability rules, and finds a way to address the economic inequalities that the Liberal Party helped to bring about in the first place.

Koby said...

Pose: "A particular way of standing or sitting, usually adopted for effect or in order to be photographed, painted, or drawn."

Make no mistake the end is near. There is a clear trend line. In ever larger swaths of the country the Liberals are fighting it out for 4th spot. In the hinterlands of BC and Alberta the Greens are beginning to challenge the Liberals for 4th. The Greens beat the Liberals in 8 seats in BC, 7 in Alberta. In Quebec it has already happened. In virtually every riding outside of Montreal the Liberals are well behind the Bloc, NDP and Conservatives. Indeed, in some ridings the Liberals came close to falling to 5th spot. Liberal support it turns out was only ever an inch deep and now with the dry weather the Liberals cover less and less of the Canadian map.

"Liberal Party to face up to the fact that neo-liberalism was an abject failure." Agreed. However, the party's left flank needs to shoulder much of the blame. In the face of Martin's cost cutting, they were far too willing given up the principle of universality for the sake of means tested social programs and are still very much of that mindset. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts during elections is very limited. Means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. On the flip side of things, the public does not get exercised about cutting back on the services only a small percentage of the public can use. That said, even on the tax cutting front the Liberals have failed to understand why a cut to a universal consumption tax might prove more popular targeted income tax cuts.

Of course, a turn to means tested social programs to the exclusion of universal ones was part of larger trend within liberalism itself away from universal to the particular. The Liberals have increasing focused increasingly on affirmative action policies under the rubric of equity. This proved to been a disaster for the working class. The focus on equity has meant that instead of trying to move the case of all workers forward, something that is desperately needed, liberals and progressives of all stripes have instead devoted virtually all their energies to shuffling the deck. Calls for a bigger share of the pie has been abandoned for sake of each of the ever smaller pieces having an equal amount of fruit.

Some Equity provisions also run afoul of many Canadians sense of right and wrong. The last 6 words from the following criminal code sub clause are great case in point. "All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered, with particular attention for aboriginal offenders." They formed the center piece of the wildly unpopular Gladue decision.

Finally, the notion that the state should again adopt a paternalistic pose with regard to certain groups after a century of progressives seeking to reveal the oppressive nature of state sanctioned paternalism is indeed ironic. Residential schools and separate but equal may be part of an inglorious past, but "Afro-centric" schools are what is needed.