Monday, December 18, 2006


Murray Dobbin nicely points out the traditional problem with Lib governments, and the virtual certainty that an unchecked Dion regime will run head-long into the same difficulty:
Dion is a passionate believer in the positive, activist role of government. He ran a leadership campaign based on three pillars: a strong (government guided) economy, sustainable development and social justice.

What we need to keep foremost in our calculations leading into the election is that the only way those three pillars have any chance of ever seeing the light of day is if Dion leads a minority government. If Dion wins a majority, the full weight of the corporate media, Bay Street, the right wing bureaucracy and the conservatives in his caucus will grind down whatever is good in Stephane Dion.
Unfortunately, though, Dobbin takes a wrong turn in analyzing what this means for the NDP:
The NDP needs to engage the public by campaigning on keeping the Liberals honest. They will give Dion the support -- critical, to be sure -- he needs to fight off the reactionary forces that will naturally align against him.

The NDP can, with this strategy, deal directly with the "wasted vote" phenomenon that has plagued them for decades by appealing to voters as a party that will in fact hold real power -- the power to force the Liberals to keep their promises.
It's fair enough to say that an NDP balance of power is the most likely positive outcome of the next federal election. And it's certainly not such a bad idea to reiterate the NDP's willingness to work constructively with the Libs however the race turns out - though it's hard to see how that could be in doubt in any event.

That said, however, the NDP can't afford to fall into the old trap of setting its goals so low as to validate the Libs' implied claim that an election is really a two-party race. And the danger would only be exacerbated if the NDP were to campaign only as the party most likely to ensure implementation of the Libs' platform, rather than one with its own set of principles worthy of support.

Which isn't to say that Dobbin's proposed message can't be adapted to one with both more upside and less downside. But at the very least, such a message needs to emphasize the actual reactionary elements linked to the Libs, along with Dion's willingness to play along with them - not the hope that Dion will ultimately oppose them given the chance (which is presumably a case that Dion should have to make for himself). And even then, it'll still remain essential to point out that the absolute best the Libs might have to offer isn't as positive or progressive a vision as can be supported directly through a vote for the NDP.

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