Friday, October 17, 2008

Move to the Center?

I can see two reasons for the Liberal party to move to the center:

1. It's appropriate in the current economic context.
2. It's politically expedient.

Argument 1: We are moving into a recession, and we need a steady fiscal hand, not new expensive progressive policies.

Argument 2: With the left split across four parties, it may be the only way to separate ourselves from the pack.

We can't give up our principles, and we can't give up on environmental policy, but in a recession it's important to prioritize the size of the pie rather than the size of the slices. Improving the size of the slices helps those who still have jobs, but improving the size of the pie helps keep people from losing their job.

I'm not convinced by my arguments, but I think this sort of question should be on the minds of all Liberals as we head into a leadership race.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this, Yappa. Perhaps its because I lived in the states under the Bush era. But I'd take a nice centrist government over a right ideologue beholden to the politics of division any day.

I have very progressive ideals, but I cringe a bit when I see people say they are ready to walk away from the Liberals if Dion isn't the leader. They should trust that they won't feel that way in a half decade with an entrenched government of the right.

I actually would like Dion to stay. But I'd also like him to be more forceful, and I don't think it is part of his personality. So I am neutral on his decision.

If he does resign, I would support a move to a centrist leader who has the fortitude to fight a battle to win back the center of the nation's electorate along with a foundation in progressive principals. But the policy needs to be grounded to appeal to the center.

Frank4PM said...

Who better to lead us from the centre than a proven and successful leader who has fought poverty domestically and internationally, and who brought fiscal prudence to his province.

Frank McKenna for Prime Minister!

Scott Bowman said...

We are the Party of the middle. It's our natural space, which we've ceded quite a bit of it to the Tories. It means we are close to where most Canadians political beliefs/values are. To (not verbatim) quote Chretien, "Liberals believe in being in the middle. Because the middle always moves."

WesternGrit said...

You mean move back to where we've spent the last 40 years? What a concept!

Just joking. Of course I want us to get back to where we were. Liberals have always been in the middle: Socially responsible, and economically prudent.

WesternGrit said...

But, I must add: We cannot stop emphasizing the "social liberal" platform items... I think we just failed to voice the "fiscal" parts of our plan clearly.

We don't have to move right to do this... We just need to effectively communicate our plan...

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the last comment, Western Grit. It's not so much changing policy. It's where the emphasis is placed.

Ferd said...

On the other hand, see Krugman in NYT. Why doesn't that apply to Canada as well?

Anonymous said...

The conservative vote stayed the same in this election. It was the NDP and Green vote that went up as the Liberal vote declined. That is where our supporters are going. A move to the right would only further alienate them and cede even more support to the parties to the left of us.

Jean Proulx said...

Dear Ruth,

I am a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada and of St├ęphane Dion. I was very inspired by the classy, substantive campaign that Mr. Dion ran during the election. Although our party did poorly I feel this was not so much a reflection on Mr. Dion as on a number of other factors (lack of election preparation due to snap election; internal dissension within the LPC, collusion between Stephen Harper and Jack Layton against Dion, negative advertising, the politics of fear, etc.)

Now that the election is over and loyal Liberal volunteers are exhausted and inattentive, certain "anonymous senior liberals" aided by a hostile right-wing media are trying to force Mr. Dion out of his leadership position without even giving a chance for ordinary Liberal members to consider whether this is in the interests of our party or Canadian democracy. They present this as a fait accompli. They say that Mr. Dion is isolated and finished politically. What they do not realize though is that Mr. Dion is NOT isolated. Grassroots Liberals were energized and inspired by his campaign, by the Green Shift, by his refusal to play politics as usual. We do not believe that engaging in another self-destructive round of LPC leadership politics will serve our party or the country well. What we need to do now is to serve Canadians by concentrating on our role of official Opposition. We need to think seriously as a party about why we lost this election and how we can better organize ourselves to win the support of Canadian voters next time. We will not let this leadership coup succeed without being heard from.

Go here to learn more about what we are doing and to join the revolt:

Best regards,
Jean Proulx

Demosthenes said...

A little late, but you should probably do a bit of economics research, Yappa.

Generally economic downturns are EXACTLY when you should move in a progressive direction, because the economy needs stimulus, and people who are hurting need support. That was Keynes' big insight, and a Keynesian won the Nobel Prize this year, remember?

And from what I've gathered, the problem with the Liberals is that they have little activist support and are losing their "raison d'etre". A party reflexively hewing to the middle because it has no idea what else to do is not a party that's going to attract support, and "hold your nose and vote Liberal" clearly isn't the case anymore.

(Besides, haven't right-of-center Liberals had their asses handed to them since Turner?)

Yappa said...

Hi Demosthenes,

There is often a difference between expensive progressive policy and stimulus packages aimed at alleviating a recession.

On your other analysis of the Liberal party, I don't think you have your facts straight. Chretien was pretty far to the right, Martin a bit less so as PM, but rightish as finance minister.

Also, I think the strength of the Liberal party is that it is sensitive to the needs of all Canadians rather than trying to please a "base" and ignoring the rest.

Also, rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerrated! We're undertaking some serious self-criticism at the moment, but the Liberal party is far from washed up.