This is the first in a series of posts I’m planning to do on what the Liberal Party needs to do in order to win again. I’m going to focus on the Liberals here because I believe that they represent the best chance to put a more progressive party into government. Jack Layton and the NDP tried hard to convince Canada that they were the new mainstream progressive party – but so far voters remain unconvinced. So in the spirit of progressive pragmatism I’m going to address these words to Liberals. Here goes:
Big Ideas: Don’t get any
I thought that the Green Shift wasn’t a bad idea. Insofar as something needs be done about our environmental impact, it seemed like a reasonable solution. The problem though was that it was complicated in practice. I think if you follow politics closely, it’s easy to lose sight of how little many people pay attention to these things. I pushed hard on this blog for electoral reform in Ontario. I thought that the proposal was easy enough to follow – vote for a candidate, vote for a party. Done. Easy. When I tried explaining it to a number of people who weren’t close politics watchers, they furrowed their brows and waved their hands “Who can understand this complicated and weird new system?!” was essentially their reply to the question of electoral reform. Simple, incremental platforms seem to work the best.
What was Chretien’s defining idea? The deficit reduction? He only decided to wipe out the deficit one he got into power, he was way less aggressive on it in the ’93 campaign than either Campbell or Manning were. What was Harper’s defining idea? Not much, just that the Liberals were stale in government. Canadians seem to prefer go-slow incrementalists to big ideas and crazy dreams. Look at Brian Mulroney: he got the lowest poll numbers of any sitting prime minister in Canada and was defined by two big ideas: constitutional reform and free trade. The Liberals should ditch the idea of an over-arching grand scheme and look for progressive solutions to ordinary problems. It’s not sexy, but it’s something that can generate votes.