Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Unite the Canadian left? Please do.

A quarter of a billion potential voters in the world’s only democratic superpower will likely give a majority mandate to the next president of the United States. The 18 months of Democrat and Republican campaigning will entertain, offend and alarm sensitive people everywhere. This year, nestled just north, a relatively agreeable electorate of some 24-million potential voters will merely handicap an insider’s power game among the leadership of, possibly, five registered parties.

Canadians think Americans are too stupid to see that money makes their decisions. Instead, if all goes as progressives hope, Canadians will demonstrate their European sophistication by letting Canada’s professional politicians decide—after the October election—who best represents their unexpressed best intentions.

The Canadian Way, the Westminster Model, relies on two recognized pathways to 24 Sussex Dr.: 

Option 1: a one-party majority of elected members of parliament bound to support their leader
Option 2: an ad-hoc post-election coalition of parliamentary caucuses that provides one name for the blessing of the Governor General—an unelected gentleman whose qualifications for a ceremonial job most impressed the incumbent prime minister

The laughably obvious, most transparent option of simply tweaking Option 1 and Option 2 by creating a formal one-party, pre-election alliance on the left to take on the one-party, pre-election alliance on the right is, well, laughable. The leadership on the left hasn’t had the talent to pull it off since Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Some columnists insist in whispers that fancy “cultural” differences keep the center and the left apart. Do they really think Harper’s center-right alliance has no center? That a conservative today must only look for friends, conversation, mates and lovers out in the wilds of the “base”? Do they think that only Barack Obama holds together the Democratic Party alliance of knuckle-draggers in Jersey and kale-eaters in San Francisco?

The New Democrats and Greens at least admit to the dreamy idea of negotiating within a left coalition, if no single party wins a majority.

Laurier sunny heir Justin Trudeau just isn’t interested. Also, many loyal Liberals think he can still win the old way: with the greatest number of seats and a modest plurality of votes—without the bother of winning a center-left electoral majority. 

Besides, don’t Liberals get along with others by being empathetic but apart, with the center to themselves?

Actually, inertia sustains the status quo.

The Liberal Party will campaign hard on the proposition the Harper Government is a threat to our Constitutional liberties, that he’s an embarrassment with war-like, fascist-like tendencies. But he’s not quite bad enough to have to confront him shoulder-to-shoulder with those “socialistic” Dippers.

There’s no reason to worry that carrying on with a less open, less decisive, less democratic system than America’s will harm our brand among anti-American friends in multinational agencies.

Nevertheless, it contradicts the center-left’s platform handwringing about participatory democracy and the menace of right-wing extremism.

The most constructive way to energize new voters is by being believable about who actually is the alternative to Stephen Harper.

And the surest way to inspire the Conservative Party to keep and recapture voters in the center is by giving the centrist voters two choices rather than a precious party label of its own. 

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