Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A thought experiment

Over the last couple of years, a consistent theme has developed among the now-Red Green alliance. In an effort to blame the federal NDP while painting the Libs as innocent victims completely unresponsible for their own demise, apologists have tried desperately to find evidence of a grand conspiracy against the Libs. And in the process, they've accused the NDP of being in bed with the Cons based on the most ridiculous of "evidence", ranging from Con supporter entreaties rejected by NDP supporters, to idle speculation about things which will never happen.

But let's put to a test just what kind of principle underlies the Red Green position.

Suppose there were an election pitting a long-time centre-left government against a right-wing opposition party which had spent a decade trying to moderate its image. Suppose the governing party had brought up the election's most progressive ideas on child care, the environment, health care, and electoral reform, while the opposition's platform consisted largely of targeted tax cuts (but with enough promised spending to take away some of the fear factor).

Now let's add a third party to the mix - one with nowhere near either the current seat count or the current support level of either of the two main parties, and whose most recognizable contribution in recent years had been to support the left-wing government when it was limited to a minority.

Suppose that third party tried to position itself as an ostensibly left-wing alternative to replace the "tired" government. But in doing so, the third party failed to offer any substantially different left-wing policies from those already proposed (and indeed implemented in part) by the governing party, instead running primarily on a platform of accountability in an effort to build up a perceived need for change.

And suppose as well that the third party not only withheld its fire from the right-wing party, but outright conceded the election to the conservative party in an explicit bid to position itself as a future opposition.

I bet those principled Red Greeners would be positively howling with outrage at the third party's damage to the progressive cause, and probably pointing out the likelihood of an active conspiracy between the third party and the right-wing party. Don't you?

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