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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Working against a permanent Conservative majority

This originated as a comment over at Thwap's place, but perhaps I should expand on it a bit.
Call me a hair-splitter if you must, but while certain individual Liberal activists might be open to some new electoral thinking, I wouldn't be so sanguine about the Liberal Party itself.
I understand that they need some time to grieve, to heal and to come to terms with their third-party status, and I'm willing to grant them that time. But I'm not willing to put the hard work we need to do on hold while they do that.
We're facing four years of war, to be fought on many fronts and on many battlefields. If they want to spend their time and energy gazing at their navels and trying to revive a decrepit institution that's past its shelf life, that's up to them, but I've got more important things to do. And that goes for anyone else who's not comfortable with the idea of a permanent Conservative majority.
Initially I wasn't sure I wanted to come across all harsh and everything, but in all honesty, I don't know how I can be any more emphatic about the need for opposition activists, of whatever stripe, to stop flinging poo at each other and focus on the main task. Some of the language I've encountered from  fellow progressive bloggers, many of whom I've respected until now, is simply mind-boggling. You know who you are.

Liberal friends, it's time for some tough love. Those of you who want to stay all Bay Street friendly and do what you did for most of the the last four years and not alienate the corporate media, there's a party for you. It's called the Conservative Party. Those of you who want to embrace progressive principles, preserve what's left of the social safety net, and keep people who think like Charles McVety from criminalizing abortion and gay sex might want to work with Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Like it or not, for the next four years that's the NDP.

And once again, lest anyone think this little corner's gone all orange, that goes for New Democrats too. I'm willing to cut the rookies in your parliamentary caucus as much slack as reasonably practicable, as long as you remember an overarching strategic principle: effective opposition to the Harper government will have to have extra-parliamentary roots and focus. It's not pleasant, but it's a fact of life. Steve doesn't need your help or your consent. He's got a majority now.

The Conservative attack machine is going to land on you in a way that made what they did to Iggy look like a hot-oil massage, and the corporate media is going to go gleefully apeshit over every gaffe and every rookie misstep. Some mistakes are going to be unavoidable, but please, can you at least try not to go out of your way to step in the dog shit ... ?

We've got a lot of work ahead of us. It's going to be a long four years of engaging our fellow citizens and working to build bridges. We're going to have to reach out to our neighbours, including those who voted Conservative and those who stayed home, and we're going to have to talk to them without being condescending or retreating into truisms or lecturing them about civic duty. Mea culpa in that regard, as much as anyone else.

But let's save our energy for the things that matter, shall we?

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  1. Well said. Time for grieving must pass quickly & the job at hand must be tackled without reservation. My latest tweet encapsulates my feelings: "A message to LPC from Italian politics c.1993? 'It is starting from this nudity that we must rebuild our political life.'Luciano Benetton"

  2. So why are you buying into the way the other side is framing Thomas Mulcair's statements? Taken in context, his crime appears to be suggesting that the American government may have acted outside the law and is being less than honest about it. I don't find that very controversial.

    Once upon a time, we used to expect it would be the journalists who challenge the official narrative. Now all we can expect from a lot of them is to ridicule those who actually do challenge it.

  3. Pogge:

    Don't misunderstand me. Am I saying there's no reason to be skeptical about the narrative we're being fed about OBL? Of course not.

    Indeed, your second paragraph answers the question you're posing in the first. We know perfectly well that the corporate media aren't going to challenge the official storyline. And we know they're going to lump anyone who raises doubts about the OBL narrative in with the birthers, and the 9/11 truthers, and the rest of the conspiracy-theory wackjobs. It's an easy story for lazy reporters and it's got more than enough drama to make the assignment editors happy.

    Mulcair's no rookie. He's a seasoned, experienced guy who's been around and is supposed to know what he's about. Given that, he should know better than most how his words would have been framed, so why open his mouth and give the corporate media such a nice juicy target? He might as well have taped a "Kick Me" sign to his ass.


  4. So the message to progressive politicians for the next four years is: keep your heads down and watch what you say.

    Makes them sound like Democrats (and I don't mean New). By the time they've been properly trained, it won't matter if they get elected because nothing will change.

  5. Pogge:

    No. Although that's probably good advice for any politician of any leaning, the fact is that the NDP rookies are going to be under the microscope 24/7, and they're going to be toasted for the things they say no matter how carefully considered and framed. In fact, the lingering idealist in me hopes they aren't ever "properly trained," because the less they play by traditional Ottawa rules, the more potential they'll have to make some appreciable difference. If they learn to become effective parliamentarians, all well and good, but the fact of the Harper majority limits what even the most experienced and well-disciplined parliamentary opposition can do.

    The corporate media have an inherent institutional and financial bias against the NDP program, so any Dipper who speaks out on anything will have to deal with that. But why make it easy for them? There's going to be a lot to criticize the Harper Regime for, but thanks to Mulcair, all they're talking about right now is Osama Bin Shiny Object.


  6. The Liberal Party's alliance with capital over the past couple of decades was for the most part a desire to adhere to the neoliberal status quo in the country. There was the expectation that somehow if the Liberals hadn't of obsessed over things such as tax cuts and budget balancing that they would have become irrelevant in Canadian politics. Instead they were the victims of a steady decline on the left, punctuated by increasingly weak grassroots and regional support across the country. There's only so long before relying on liberal conservatives from Ontario to support the party is going to stop working in light of other electoral choices.

    The point is clear though. The Reform/Alliance social conservatives and neoliberals control the Conservative Party of Canada and now they have total control over the federal legislative. The political left is going to need to figure out that the real threat is on the right, instead of in and amongst its own ranks. Unless they can marshal support amongst the public and force the government indirectly to acquiesce, the foundations of the welfare state that Liberals and the NDP built -together- will be fundamentally broken.