Is Bob Rae the Moses of Canadian politics?
Moses, as you may recall, is a figure from religious history. According to both the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, Moses was a prophet who spoke to God, and went on to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt.
After 40 years of wandering around in the desert, he died at age 120, within sight of the Promised Land. He’s the guy credited with receiving the Ten Commandments.
Rae, as you may also know, is a figure from political history. According to the fountainhead of all wisdom, Wikipedia, Rae was the leader of the Ontario New Democrats, converted, and now leads the Liberals.
After wandering around in the political wilderness for the past few months, Rae gave a speech this week about how to return the Grits to the promised land of government.
It was not the Ten Commandments, but — politically — it was close. Oh, and unlike Moses, Rae is quite alive, and nor is he 120. In comparative terms, he is a fresh-faced youngster, at only half Moses’ age.
But this week, as we pored through Rae’s much-heralded speech before Toronto’s Economic Club, it was impossible for all of us — well, OK, just me — to not think of Rae as a latter-day Moses parting seas, performing miracles and leading his dispirited people to the very edge of salvation. His speech was that good.
Given that I am not Bob Rae’s bestie — and given that it is somewhat unlikely that Rae clips out every single one of my Sun Media columns, so that he can read them again and again — you should know that, like Pharaoh Ramses II and Moses, we are not close.
He has not subjected me to a Biblical plague, but he probably would if he could. So when I say that his speech was political dynamite, I mean it. In it, Rae embraced the strategy that Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien deployed to win power for more than a generation: He embraced the middle.
“We Liberals find ourselves competing with two other parties with simplistic messages,” Rae said.“The Conservatives want tax giveaways for the better-off, the NDP wants to raise taxes and then throws in a ‘tax-the-rich’ message for good measure.”
It’s bumper-sticker stuff, said Rae, and it’s not serious.
That’s not all. Rae suggested that the Conservatives are the party of big corporate bosses — while the NDP is the party of big union bosses.
And neither are championing the interests of the Canadian middle class, now roving through the economic desert.
Rae’s case is helped by his opponents, too. Both the Cons and the Dippers are busily sandblasting their own credibility.
Just this week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty — who has missed every one of his fiscal targets — admitted the national debt will blossom to $640 billion by 2015.
But he’s still insisting on going ahead with job-killing payroll taxes — a move that Rae rightly says is a disaster during a time of high unemployment.
The New Democrats, too, are nomadic and leaderless. Their leadership race is a battle of nobodies, and no one really knows what they favour — apart from always favouring union bosses over the little guy.
With his opponents in, ahem, disarray — and with his Liberals finally crafting a message that will appeal to the middle class — can Rae lead his party, Moses-like, to the Promised Land of government? Him, personally? No way.
He’s got steamer trunks full of baggage from his NDP days. It ain’t going to happen. But, like Moses, Bob Rae may well be the guy to deliver his people out of political bondage.
And that, among other things, would be an achievement of Biblical proportions.