Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Come to Jesus Meeting

Between lawyers and clients, a Come to Jesus meeting is akin to an intervention. "You aren't going to win. I'll keep taking your money if you like. We can double down and keep fighting if you want, but you've already lost. Accept it."

Among American conservatives Chris Buckley, who was just fired from the magazine his father founded for endorsing Barack Obama, more bluntly refers to a need for a 'Conservatism - What the fuck happened?' meeting.

Some of my readers may be stunned to discover that I actually believe in the need for a rational conservative movement. I don't think they should be setting the agenda, but that's my partisan view. I do think they are a necessary ideological counterpoint and at best an expression of real and valid concerns. There's a difference, of course between the rational tendencies of a Burke or an Oakshott and the fanatical revolutionaries of the movement conservatives - who in their truest expression in George W. Bush and his followers have been reduced to power lust, bile and intellectual stasis.

In Sweden, the left leaning Social Democrat Party lost power in 2006 after a decade of unchallenged supremacy and a rolling series of scandals - sound familiar at all? The right leaning Moderates won - but only barely, they need the support of smaller right wing parties, had to move their whole platform to the left and pledge support for social programs and needed a collapse of support for the Social Democrats to win at all. The political center is now several yards further down the field than it is in the US or even in Canada, but it's still there. The Social Democrats still have the most seats over all and their support has rebounded. The time in the wilderness has strengthened them in terms of policy and probably cleaned out some of the careerists.

Does anybody doubt that the NDP will be back in power again in Saskatchewan sooner or later? Even out of power they have real agenda setting power - Can you think of any other right leaning governments who can't safely oppose crown corporations or a social safety net as extensive as Saskatchewan has? The number of people expressing interest in taking Lorne Calvert's job indicates they expect it to lead to becoming Premier sooner rather than later. The NDP moved the center several yards down the playing field and even in power the right wingers in Saskatchewan are playing defence.

Stephen Harper and the current incarnation of the Canadian Conservative Party are movement conservatives but are handcuffed by the desire to retain power in a socially and economically progressive nation. They can do a lot of sub rosa damage to the social contract and are proud supporters of the neo-liberal project to democracy proof the economy and continue the wealth distribution upwards - but so are the Liberals.

Harper achieved his peak this election and even with the historic collapse of the Liberals that peak was still just a minority. I agree with those who suggest that sometime in the next year or two he will take the opportunity to leave on a high note rather than try again to get the majority that is forever beyond his reach.

Don't be surprised if the Conservative Party returns to its Progressive Conservative roots in its coming transition - if your essential ideology is power you make the adjustments necessary to serve that motivation. The center is further down the field than they would like and all the headwinds in the years to come will be pushing it even further.

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