How quickly old boys douse the flames of party change
Yikes. What a snafu.
With Bob Rae stepping out of the Liberal race, the Libs can now do what they do best, power-broke their way to a new leadership.
Way back an eternity ago, in 2006, when Stéphane Dion was chosen Liberal leader, I wrote that the grassroots was giving the finger to the Liberal elite. Looks like the backroom boys are about to return the favour.
Problem is, the appointment of Michael Ignatieff doesn't settle the democratic deficit of the Liberal party on any level. And what about all that talk at the last Grit convention about renewal in the party, new ways of doing things, more bottom-up participation?
And where are all those young conventioneers wearing Dion green and believing they'd transformed a cynical, top-heavy party ragged from internal warring?
Don't Liberals get it that we're in the Obama era, when party building is supposed to turn supporters into engaged participants?
But more to the point, handing over the party to Ignatieff doesn't settle the broader democratic deficit either, where the majority of voters didn't vote for but still got Tory rule. A broke and tired centre-right party has chosen the leadership candidate least jazzed about taking power in a coalition with the NDP.
The fact is, the coalition could be a godsend for the Liberals, allowing them to once more smell power following last fall's drubbing. And it put an end to their floundering in the House, where last session they sat on their hands for most votes, terrified of triggering an election.
House insiders say the Libs were like deer in the headlights when Jim Flaherty presented his fiscal update and dared them to vote it down and face a an election and inevitable extinction.
For a while, the coalition was a lifeline the Liberal caucus gleefully grabbed - until polls showed they'd have to actually work at selling it. (Hey, how about a Chretien/Broadbent cross-Canada reunion tour?)
That Dion brokered the deal made sense. He was at last doing what the rank and file dreamed he would: remaking the political rules.
Will Ignatieff grasp the gift that Dion negotiated for him? What do we know of the anointed one anyway? Sure, next to Bob Rae he has very little baggage, but that's what happens when you stay not only out of Canadian politics for your entire adult life, but out of the country as well.
It's not merely that Ignatieff oozes an unearned aura of entitlement. It's that now we have two leaders of our biggest parties who would have joined Bush's invasion of Iraq. How'd we get here?