Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tough Love

In the aftermath of this election, one thing is abundantly clear and that is Canadians don't share Liberals pre-occupation with nostalgia. If there was a moment in this campaign where I sensed the election was over, it was when our brain trust looked to the past for inspiration (as they did in 2008 as well, with similar headlines), it told me that we still didn't quite understand our audience.

I never understood why Ignatieff, or his handlers, so readily embraced the Liberal lineage, spoke in successive fashion, as though the latest prince of a historical dynasty. Maybe it's because I haven't been a Liberal "forever", so I have a detached objectivity, but I know for certain that Canadians see a very "checkered" brand when Liberals wax poetically about the gallant past. I'm not discounting the tremendous achievements, as a student of history I appreciate and understand the central place this party has played in our nation's evolution. However, I also understand, in the starkest terms possible that the past is both inspiring and an albatross, particularly for a man like Ignatieff, with no direct involvement in the "glory years", the connection was more hindrance than help.

Our brand needs to completely and utterly re-invent itself, so to hear Ignatieff continually take ownership of the past in speech after speech, I would classify a core strategic error. The embrace was a clear signal that Liberals didn't understand the mood of the country, Canadians simply didn't share the same pride, the flowery history lesson. This fact explains why when the "change" bandwagon began, voters completely BYPASSED the Liberals, all establishment, all the time, hardly a testament to something different.

I've moaned on this topic for sometime, and I've met resistance from fellow Liberals. We had a great economic record, we had a great international stature, we had this, we had that, but the key word for me is HAD. With that reality in mind, "reminding Canadians" is forever a double edged sword, primarily because of all the baggage a trip down memory lane provides. If I had one piece of advice for Liberals, ditch the rear view mirror routine, it moves no voter, if anything it repels(if you look at turnout, it also apparently does NOTHING to turn out our base, the ultimate indignity). Liberals should remember their past, be proud of what was accomplished, lament what was lost, but that should be a private conversation. In public, in regard to brand, we need to become the "New Liberals", a complete and utter re-introduction to Canadians, which necessitates a public break from the past. The Canadian public, both solitudes, have spoken loud and clear, let's understand what they've said once and for all. All I see is the horizon in front of me, that's IT.

28 comments:

Jerry Prager said...

I didn't understand why the Prorogue period democracy forum didn't form the basis of an ad, why the Thinker's Conference tapes weren't made available, didn't form the basis for discussions with voters.

Still though, the lack of a comprehensive democratic renewal package during an election founded on democratic renewal, continues to be the singular failure of the party, too much 'trust us" feel good reforms, and nothing that gave any indication that liberalism understands that it's enemy is corporatism.

Even though I don't trust Warren Kinsella as far as I can throw him, Warren is one of the few liberals who seems to know that liberalism's enemy is fascism.

For one of the world's great intellectuals, Iggy's failure to talk intelligently about alternatives to corporatism was appalling.

Fortunately by the end of the next four years Harper will make it very clear what fascism is, and why corporatism and democracy can not coexist.

If the party doesn't go to front lines of that battle, it doesn't matter where you go, liberalism lives or dies on its capacity to deliver greatest equal liberty.

Corporatism lives or dies on whether it servants remain indentured to its masters.

Make a stand, or perish.

Scott in Montreal said...

Ignatieff as leader made sense only if you were trying to seriously re-invent the party and move in a completely new direction, for the reasons you have mentioned. It did not ring true for him to talk of what "we Liberals" have accomplished, knowing he was far removed from it all.

Dragging out Chrétien and Martin in the last week was an error. It negated the break-with-the-past theme that should have been Ignatieff's focus from the start of his tenure.

The question for me is: can the party truly take this opportunity to expunge its old-school back roomers and head off in a new direction that speaks clearly to the anti-corporatist, anti-neoliberal needs of the people? Or hopelessly trying to reclaim the centre (not unlike the failed attempts of Charest and Joe Clark to revive the PCs without any fresh ideas)?

Move forward. Listen and don't preach. That is the recipe for renewal.

rgl said...

:) You're doing it Steve - I'll keep harping on the same theme on Twitter and when a blogging inspiration hits - renew, reinvent, reanimate, revolutionize, rebirth of the LPC/

Tof KW said...

Maybe it was just me, but I thought bringing out Chrétien and Martin was a 'save the deck chairs' maneuver to hold what remained of the Liberal vote. It certainly couldn't have been viewed as a means to attract new voters.

wiseliberal said...

Hopefully, the Party really does learn from this experience.

In my view, if we were serious about change, we should have picked someone like Kennedy as the new Leader in the first place.

There was too much of a push to try and just get power back asap.

Steve V said...

People should go back and re-read what Kennedy was saying in 2006, it reads like prophecy now :)


Scott

Bang on!

A Eliz. said...

The Party must bring in new top people. We do have a Constitution, and I wonder if the Liberals have gone by that since Trudeau.

sharonapple88 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharonapple88 said...

People should go back and re-read what Kennedy was saying in 2006, it reads like prophecy now :)

Here's the text.

I hope Kennedy stays around.

wiseliberal said...

Wow. Thanks for posting that link to Kennedy's speech, very powerful.

Amazing how it could have been a speech for 2011!

I think all Liberals should read/watch that speech again. The Liberal Party needs to listen to the younger leaders like Kennedy.

Paul said...

Some rebuilding points...

1. Define a Liberal
2. Figure out what the term "grassroots" actually means.
3. Don't appoint a leader.
4. Drop Bob Ray and everyone else over the age of 59.
5. Get rid of all the left leaning wingnuts and lobby groups that influence the party. (Coalition for Gun Control as an example)
6. Never bring up a "gun registry" again....ever.
7. You can actually win a majority without Quebec.
8. There is no such thing as a "naturally governing party".

9. If you want votes west of Ontario you need to fix the "Trudeau" problem.
10. Stay away from the NDP...they will inplode over the next four years.

Kirk said...

Well, there's some nostalgia for Adscam among a number of Canadians. Liberals do get pilloried for their past they just don't get credited for it.

Susan said...

We should take the best of what the Liberals stand for and be proud of that past and then see how that can be the foundation for the future. The most important thing is to get rid of the old guard - the old right wing of the party - jane taber's leaky leaks and the ones who helped screw up this campaign. I'll start a list of the new and old guard that can stay: Dominique Leblanc, Stephane Dion, Justin Trudeau, Martha Hall Findlay, Gerard Kennedy, Ujjal Dosanje (sp?), Ken Dryden - you add some.

Tof KW said...

Ralph Goodale needs to stay as well. I know he's very much part of the old guard, but there's something special about a prairie Liberal flying the red flag deep in enemy territory ...and still winning.

The Grits need Ralph to show the Liberal Party does have something to offer the western farmer, kind of like the NDP needing Mulcair in Outremont to bribe the soft-nationalists dans la belle (just not as overtly sleazy as that).

Kirk said...

Kennedy's speech references Chretien, Martin and Pearson and the Liberals past. Just saying.

Maybe it's how it's done more than just doing it. I don't think Liberals will be allowed to escape their past and if those attacks on Liberals go unanswered because we want to leave the past behind then, just like the unanswered attacks on Ignatieff, they will sink us (further).

We should never run on our past especially so when not being currently the governing party but we can't run from our past either. We won't be allowed to and after all Micheal Ignatieff's past was at the center of 90% of the attacks against him. It was Harper's past that was left un-examined by us and Canadians. Harper had a thick file on Ignatieff's and the Liberal Party that he used to great effect and the Conservatives knew it was so important that they wrote 500 pages on Harper's past quotes.

We need to find out how to deal with our past both as a strength and as a weakness because it ain't going away.

Susan said...

I was jst going to add Goodale - a man of great integrity

sharonapple88 said...

Amazing how it could have been a speech for 2011!

It touches on a number of things -- national unity, the upcoming problems we're going to face (aging population, climate change, urban/rural divide, globalization)-- that none of the leaders during this election really touched upon.

I agree with the Mound-of-sound in that he/she noted that all the leaders during the 2011 election were campaigning as though it were the eighties.

Tof KW said...

Paul said...
Some rebuilding points...
1. Define a Liberal


It that really required? I believe you mean define the Liberal party, because the word liberal means different things to different people, and for that matter so does the word conservative.

There is the classic definition of liberal to express the freedom of the individual, as opposed to collectivism. In terms of politics, in Canada it is a centrist position, but in the US it has become synonymous with socialist, while in Australia it is the conservatives.

And getting back to this, can anyone define conservative? Seriously because I am a Red Tory, yet there is no way I can in good conscience vote for the current Conservative Party when the name is a misnomer. Economically they are neo-liberals, politically they are populists, though socially they are conservative - and that part I don't care for being a social libertarian. And most importantly, the CPofC are NOT fiscal conservatives, and I have $56 billion reasons to prove they are not.

Steve V said...

Kirk

It was also a Lib audience, not the general public :)

Dame said...

Stay away from the NDP...they will inplode over the next four years.
this is No 1 lesson .

sharonapple88 said...

Stay away from the NDP...they will inplode over the next four years.

I don't know about that, and no one can guarantee this.

Anyway, I finally found a copy of the Sherebrooke Declaration. You'd think they'd make it more avaliable.

sharonapple88 said...

I don't know about that, and no one can guarantee this.

Just wanted to add that I don't think this helps.

Anyway, I hope they keep on talking about this, because I don't think their position on Quebec is clear.

Tof KW said...

sharonapple88, I think the NDP's views on Quebec are quite clear. Layton is in favour of re-opening the constitution, thinks bill-101 should be expanded to federal jurisdictions, and that the Clarity Act should be scrapped.

Also, I'm wondering how long it will take for the outright sovereigntist NDP MPs to bolt and join the Bloc. I'm guessing by year 3 of the 41st parliament.

What a refreshingly new government in waiting we have with the official opposition.

Steve V said...

I'd be cautious on the NDP imploding. They look like rank amateurs right now, some of their supporters beyond juvenile and petty, but four years is an eternity. What we are seeing now is pretty much irrelevant. Let's see where we are in a year or two, we have to assume the NDP will grow. If they fail fine, but if they don't, at least we are prepared for that outcome.

Dame said...

For Harper the NDP is Godsent Gift.... as long as they are prominet Harper and the Cons. will rule forever...
they got alot of votes on the simple surge of the NDP...
we need to make sure Liberals are far fom this new fascination...

Möbius said...

"they got alot of votes on the simple surge of the NDP..."

If you really believe this, you've got a lot of learnin' to do.

Möbius said...

"I'd be cautious on the NDP imploding."

Agreed. This is renewal, of some sort. The Volpes, Drydens, Dhallas are gone. The entitlement is history. Time for a new idiom.

I don't mind a two-party system, as long as one of those parties is not the NDP.

sharonapple88 said...

sharonapple88, I think the NDP's views on Quebec are quite clear. Layton is in favour of re-opening the constitution, thinks bill-101 should be expanded to federal jurisdictions, and that the Clarity Act should be scrapped.

Oh yes, but I don't think most people are really aware of this outside of Quebec. And Layton uses this fog to his favour by trying to play to both sides of the issue. The Globe & Mail caught one of these attempts when Layton mentioned that he supported representation by population, but also that he also thought that Quebec needed more seats in Parliament even though, as the Globe notes, it doesn't merit such increases. You can't assign Quebec more seats and want to arrange representation by population. At some point, Layton will had to choose a position.

Also, I'm wondering how long it will take for the outright sovereigntist NDP MPs to bolt and join the Bloc. I'm guessing by year 3 of the 41st parliament.

Here's an article that touches on a few of them.

I think they'll stick it out for a while.