Home > Current Affairs, Politics > Electionpocalypse 2011: Some Brief and Intemperate Thoughts

Electionpocalypse 2011: Some Brief and Intemperate Thoughts

A few more Canadian electionpocalypse thoughts to share, with the benefit of a few days’ worth of stewing (and possibly fricasseeing):

  • There isn’t much more to say about the Conservative majority and the inescapably hegemonic position that the Party of Harper now occupies that Jeffrey Simpson doesn’t say in the Globe and Mail. I’d give the whole piece a far more ominous pall, of course, and place far more hope in that closing reference to arrogance and hubris, if I had my druthers. While I don’t doubt that the uncompromising, cutthroat Stephen Harper of the past two minority governments was at least to some extent a product of circumstances, I also don’t doubt that it’s also a product of his nature. The more fair-minded political observers in this country bemoaned his unwillingness to cooperate with the other parties as a driving force for the grinding deadlock of the House of Commons, but Harper could not give the left-wing parties what they wanted and then face the nation and ask it to give him unwavering power. To make a Conservative majority seem inevitable (and, to some souls, even desirable), Harper had to make minority government seem impossible. The Conservative minority era’s failure over the past few years paved the road to their success this spring. It was astoundingly cynical of them, but not too surprising. So will Harper and his caucus govern in a completely arrogant way? Sure. Will that bring them down in the end? Not so sure.
  • The understandable leftist enthusiasm over the NDP’s historic seat count must, of course, be tempered a little by the obviously thin resumes of their Quebec caucus; without such an unprecedented and kind of nonsensical vote swing to the party’s we-gotta-run-somebody candidates in Quebec, they wouldn’t have done much better than the Liberals did. And there’s little to indicate that the New Democrats can ever hope to match the CPC’s enormous funding advantage, especially as a party with a definite anti-corporate ideological bent. But then there’s little to suggest that, frothy SUN-reported rub-and-tug scandals aside, the Tory political bile machine can do to Jack Layton what it did to Michael Ignatieff or to Stephane Dion. Whether you find his proposed policies to be compassionate and fair or irresponsible and costly (and I find them to be all four of those on some days), Layton stood out in this campaign. While the other leaders were mostly dour German Shepherds, he was a bulldog in a tutu. To achieve the kind of vote share and seat gains that Layton did, all while dealing with prostate cancer and hip surgery, is pretty amazing. Layton, I think, showed a lot of Canadians that he stood for something when it was clear that Harper and Ignatieff didn’t really stand for much at all, and whatever you thought of where he stood, you had to respect him for standing at all, even if he needed a cane to do it.
  • The eulogies for the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois were immediate, and there’s been precious little overt recognition from either party of their dire straits. Ignatieff said he might stay on before announcing he wouldn’t, and landed back in academia. I’m not among those who thought he never should have left the ivory tower in the first place, but I’m not sure the failure of this election is entirely on him. The LPC always seems to feel lately that picking a fine leader is the key thing; the Great Man theory of history clearly holds great sway with this bunch. But they’re being completely outflanked on the ground not only by the malicious Tories but also on their left side by the NDP. They can keep shuffling the figurehead until the end of time and it won’t win them back the government until they rebuild their organization and formulate a grand role in the Canadian story that is once again worthy of their tradition. As for the Bloc, theirs was always a tenuous and indeed counterintuitive position: a federal party that abhored federalism as a culture-eviscerating evil. Reports of the death of separatism in Quebec may be greatly exaggerated, but its difficult experiment in the national Parliament is likely done, at least for now.
  • And a final word for the “unite the left” utopians: fat chance. These are two distinct parties with unique and divergent traditions, and even the possibility of unseating the loathed Tories won’t entice them into a merger. How then to unseat Harper and the Conservatives? There’s no easy answer to that. Something tells me that it won’t happen while either Harper or Layton or whoever gets the interim Liberal leadership (Bob Rae seems like a good bet for the moment) remain in the picture. The next shift of this magnitude to come will be generationally driven. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a generation to arrive.
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Categories: Current Affairs, Politics
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