Thursday, April 28, 2011

On party interests

Scott Reid is probably right in describing what he thinks the Libs' strategy is driving at as our election campaign draws to a close. But let's take a step back and ask what it says about the party's desperation:
The least conventional ballot question in Canadian history is taking shape: Do you care about the Liberal party's future?
Harper and Layton may discover that many others dislike the idea of overlooking an institution that offers a reliably sensible and centrist option.

They may learn that Canadians are none too eager to reduce future national debates to twin poles of extreme opinion.

They may find that in the quiet of the ballot box, there are many voters who decide they value the Liberal party and will vote to preserve its ability to positively influence their future. Just as it has their past.
Leaving aside Reid's own personal stake in the Libs, let's turn the question around.

If, in an election where there was a close race between the Libs and Cons for government, the NDP had ever ended a campaign by declaring that voters should ignore policy, principle, leadership and strategy alike, and vote simply based on a desire to preserve their party's brand...

How well would that have gone over as a direct appeal?

And perhaps more importantly, how savagely would it have been shredded by a Lib party declaring that it proved the NDP wasn't interested in stopping a mutual opponent?

In effect, Reid's analysis looks to be the next stage of the Libs' culture of entitlement. Having failed in their effort to dictate that nobody else could stop the Harper Cons, they're now asking that voters put on hold every real consideration at play in the current election campaign - every prospect of replacing the Harper Cons with a better government - solely for the benefit of a party which has shown it can't win support on the merits.

Now, one might point to cases where a relatively similar message has fallen flat (anybody else hearing an echo of Ujjal Dosanjh's plea to at least allow for some B.C. opposition in 2001?). But Reid's pitch looks to be even less justifiable, since he's trying to make the case in an election whose outcome is actually in doubt.

If there's any saving grace for the Libs, it's that enough Canadians may have tuned them out that the message isn't certain to reach all of the voters who may yet vote Lib out of habit. But if "save the furniture" is now the Libs' public appeal rather than merely their internal rallying cry, then there's reason to think there are plenty more votes for the NDP to win as the campaign reaches an end.

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