Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Parties of fear

So another election in the offing, another predictable campaign ramping up to convince Canadian voters that they have far fewer choices than they actually do.

Jason Cherniak tries to explain to us poor misguided leftists, more in sorrow than anger, that we really have no choice but to vote for his party - but do the Liberals really even qualify as 'left' any more? Even center left?

Dion described himself as an 'economic right-winger' in an interview with the Globe and Mail. Naturally the reporter, didn't ask the obvious follow-up question: what else besides economics is there left to be left-wing about?

Identity politics, or if you prefer, human rights politics have reached the point where seeking a more just society now requires fundamental challenges to the current economic order - does anybody really believe the Liberals are the ones to attempt something like that? Or that they even want to?

Having the mushy middle as the dominant paradigm means a constant drift to the right; if it's center left it's what the Liberals do, therefore if they do it, its center left.

So huge tax giveaways to the rich and huge corporations while claiming the cupboard is too bare for any significant new social spending is center left. Paying lip service to the environment while abandoning any meaningful attempt to protect it is center left. Betraying labour on anti-scab based on a contemptuous and contemptible lie about a nonexistent threat to essential services is center left. Waiting for the courts to compel them to respect same sex marriage and fighting survivor benefits in the courts to the bitter end is center-left.

But hey the Conservatives are worse...somehow... plus they're scary. So don't do anything silly like start to think about how we deserve better.

Liberals howl at any efforts by the NDP to win seats in 'their' ridings. Ontario is Liberal country and any efforts by the NDP there are just irresponsible partisan vote splitting. I will start viewing this specious argument with anything other than utter contempt the first time I hear real criticism from Liberals about Liberal vote splitting in traditional NDP strongholds in the West or elsewhere. No? Then shut the hell up.

The Liberals haven't earned the votes of Canadians who are concerned about progressive issues. On the most important issues of the day they have consistently sided with the elites against ordinary Canadians. They're the Tories with a slightly hipper rap.

I certainly don't think the Conservatives are any better, almost two years in power and they still begin every answer to every question with "Well when the Liberals shamefully failed to..." The aggrieved reactionary battling corrupt elites shtick starts to wear thin immediately after it becomes clear that you are the elites.

If we were looking for a single word to describe the Harper government, it would be 'thuggery'.

Thuggish accusations of treason against anyone who questions the Afghanistan mission, thuggish negative campaign advertising when there isn't even a campaign happening, thuggish attempts to intimidate independent regulators following their mandate to protect us on issues of nuclear safety, thuggish treatment of environmentalists and the environment at Bali and elsewhere.

The Conservatives are the party of 'Sit down and shut up if you know what's good for you!'

Harper is very likely right to warn of economic turbulence ahead as he did the other week, however trying to head off an angry populist response from the electorate to the party of thuggery as the economy begins to list is probably a doomed strategy. Conservatives are firmly opposed on ideological grounds to any attempts to alleviate economic hardship or inequality and Canadians know it.

And the Liberals are firmly opposed to making any alleviation of economic hardship anything more than cosmetic - unless forced to in a minority government.

And Canadians know that too.

Cherniak suggests NDP voters simply must vote Liberal because only the Liberals have any chance of forming a left leaning government.

Well A: I don't concede that the Liberals qualify as left wing anymore - if they ever did.

And B: There are other options besides forming the government, like holding the balance of power in a minority, which the NDP have done in the past and will do again in the future.

And C: The Social Credit Party seemed inevitable in Alberta for 35 years - until they were annihilated at the polls and never came back. If you'd told somebody in 1985 that the Federal Progressive Conservatives would virtually cease to exist in less than a decade they would have laughed at you. Remember the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservatives? After seemingly half their caucus went to jail they had to change their name and spend a decade in the political wilderness before being allowed to take office again. The graveyard is full of political parties that thought they were immortal. Saying that the Liberals are an inevitable part of Canada's political landscape is akin to the words 'This ship is unsinkable.'

So if Canadians are looking for real change - and I think we are - voting for the Liberals and their junior partners the Greens isn't the way to go. Taking enough seats away from them so that any potential Liberal government is a minority is.

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