Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let Iggy Be Iggy

I wandered over to Progressive Bloggers on Friday after a long week of radio and blogging and saw all kinds of negative assessments of Iggy's summertime tour across Canada and found myself disappointed, but not entirely in disagreement with what was being said about the Liberal leader. Yep, he absolutely has had an abysmal first eighteen months as leader of his party. Indeed, he has missed opportunity after opportunity, especially this past spring to pin down the Prime Minister for being an ideological hack who's on the opposite side of Canadians on most issues of import. Yes, Michael Ignatieff is a very centrist and rather conservative man -- not really in the mold of past Liberal leaders at all. And finally, it probably was a mistake to just anoint him leader without a democratic vote.

 But what's the point of all this sniping other than to undercut Mr. Ignatieff just as he has gotten himself a bit of momentum? The past two months have been his best and if we want to see an end to the reign of the current Prime Minister we would be better off focusing on that. The summer tour which Gerald Caplan calls highly overrated was anything but. There are lots of ways to characterize it -- Iggy goes to summer school, Iggy learns to be a politician, Iggy learns how to play the game, Iggy learns how to kiss babies, flip burgers and drink bad domestic beer.

As you can plainly see there's a trend here -- Michael Ignatieff had a lot to learn about being at the head of a political party and selling himself as well as his ideas. He's not a natural leader which is not said as a criticism but as an acknowledgement that he's better suited to the role of a policy wonk. He's a smart, highly educated and decent man who has written seventeen books. Seventeen! Leaders lead and policy guys write seventeen books.

So, he had to go to school. He had to learn how to campaign. He had to learn how to listen and how to respond... as a politician not as a professor. Clearly he was deficient in these areas of his resumé. It's a heck of a lot easier to sit and theorize what you'd do as the head of a political party than actually be one. So he and the party undertook the task of his transformation into a politician (for better or worse) and while it's early yet to make any definitive assessments, it sure looks a lot better now than it did when Parliament went into recess for the summer. He has been thrust into the leadership role and there it stands. We don't know if his learning experiences are being highly overrated... yet!

I've watched and listened to his interviews all summer long and they've continued to get better. Last week on the CTV morning show he did exactly what he was supposed to with a softball question from Beverly Thomson. He spoke plainly and knocked it out of the park hammering Harper on four different issues when asked what most surprised him about what he heard from Canadians on his summer tour. Just like real politicians are supposed to do.

Now, it's going to get a lot tougher for Iggy -- the Tories while ideologues are not fools and have maintained their hold on power these past four years with a combination of guile and political street smarts outflanking the opposition at most every turn. But those missed chances Gerald Caplan spoke of -- they've not been missed, just waylaid until this session of Parliament. That's when the Liberal leader hopefully will present Canadians with his plan to restore democracy to Canada and tell us what his policies will be. Don't be surprised to find him firmly hugging the middle of the road -- that's just who he is. It's that or Harper.

6 comments:

ck said...

A realistic approach I would have hoped other progressives would see.

That's the thing they tend to overlook; they complain about the Liberals pandering to the center. Terms like "mushy middle" or "mythical center" like they are to be discounted or non-existant, when in reality, they are actually the majority of Canadians. They're your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family members; all one has to do is engage in a political conversation with them if they dared. I do all the time, more often than not at my own peril. My husband is part of that center; so is his family; to them, I'm a subversive. Just saying this to prove that to believe or pretend to believe that most Canadians are left winged is not realistic and more importantly, isn't helpful in getting Harper out of office.

Now, thanks to most corporate media outlets being Harper friendly, many of those centrists have been shifted to the right, albeit a slow incremental conversion. How does one win them back? That I'm not sure and the Liberals will have a tough road ahead, but I do know it's not by discounting them or ignoring them.

Folks like to hammer Iggy for not being willing to go into a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc, yet, we have to stop to think that perhaps it's those same centrists who form the majority that don't want to see a coalition? Particularly, not with the Bloc Quebecois? Even Gilles Duceppe understood that in early 2009. Again, if we want to convince these people to not vote for Harper and show up to vote (not voting to me is synonymous to a vote for Harper), we shouldn't be forcing all progressive values down their throats at once. Steve has been incrementally sending Canada to the right. Bringing it back left of center will also have to be incremental.

Another way to look at it is that the Liberals will more than likely get a minority if they win. Either way, it's more than likely Iggy won't survive the next leadership convention and a the next leader will be voted in. Sure, they'll push for their favourite savior, who will more than likely be Justin, but I also think they'll have learned their lesson from that coronation of Iggy.

But for right now, first priority should be to get Steve out of office. And to do that, our best hope is Iggy, but with a strong cooperation (not coalition) with the NDP, as they are more competitive in certain ridings against the cons and where the Liberals are a distant third.

Skinny Dipper said...

Ignatieff's confidence improved in the past two months. He needs to continue that confidence by either supporting or opposing Harper's Conservative government bills based on their merits and not based on "Will this bring an election?" Just make sure all Liberals show up for votes. Force the NDP to carry the election ball.

ADHR said...

Isn't "he's better than Harper" a pretty low bar? If that's the best Ignatieff has going for him, I see no reason to vote for his party.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, Ignatieff has belatedly learned that he will never win the votes of the SoCons, The latter will never vote for any one other than Harper who they perceive as sharing their values. Unfortunately, the majority of the 30% who still support Harper are likely SoCons (the Fiscal Cons have left). It was probably a combination of a great lack of political acumen, and his rather Conservative bent, that led Ignatieff to fall into the trap of appearing as Harper Lite in order to win some of the Cons votes.

The non Cons votes, which have consistently represented about 2 out of 3 voters have been split 4 ways for the past decade. It is a no brainer what needs to be done --if Ignatieff keeps attacking the NDP in the hope that he will get the soft NDP votes, he will unfortunately subject this country to a few more years of Harper minority (Harper will never get a majority unless through an electoral accident, such as almost happened when Ignatieff was stupid enough to return to Parliament last Autumn with a full frontal assault on Harper after he had been absent almost the entire summer while Harper was busy handing out taxpayers' dollars).

Ignatieff's busy tour this summer, while Harper has been mostly absent from view, is the reverse of last summer's situation. If Ignatieff is unable to capitalize on this, and also on Harper's latest round of gifts (census, prisons for unreported crimes, untendered $16B fighter contract, I make the rules, etc.), for the sake of the majority non Cons voters of this country, get rid of Ignatieff.

However, I am hopeful that Ignatieff is now a wiser politician based on what I saw this summer so we may have a hope yet. This country would be much better off with a Lib minority IMHO.

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karl knox said...

I'm not sure where Iggy's best chances lie - attacking the soft NDP vote or continuously hammering Harper, but I tend to think in the end you do need something to vote for. So my take would be at some point in the very near future it will be time for Ignatieff to announce his platform what he stands for and what he will fight for. That is exactly the kind of thing that could improve his numbers.