This being the kickoff week for Sun News Network, the new-look Sun paper, and the revamped Sun website, it’s a good time to address a question I frequently get asked by family, friends and total strangers. To wit: “What’s a charter member of the latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, secular humanist trilateralist cabal like you doing with a bunch of right-wing kooks? Don’t you feel uncomfortable being a Liberal surrounded by Conservatives?”
My stock answer, which has the benefit of actually being true:”You get used to it. Besides, pretty much every leftie in the country is going to feel like I do, in a couple weeks — you know, a stranger in an even stranger land.”
They don’t get it, or they don’t agree. They will, soon enough.
Stephen Harper’s Reformatories, you see, are heading to victory on May 2. And, barring some big upset in the next few days, it may be a big victory, too.
Now, it’s not like the Conservative leader deserves a majority, let alone re-election. He has run up a historically big deficit, he’s run a lousy campaign, and he has run his promise to clean up government straight into the ditch — with so many ethical lapses taking place, you need a program to keep track. (My personal favourite? He fires Helena Guergis for cavorting with hookers, when she didn’t — and he then gives a big patronage job to convicted fraud artist Bruce Carson, who, er, brought a real hooker to a party at 24 Sussex).
So if I’m right, and Harper has done such a crummy job, why is he cruising to victory? Mainly, it’s because those of us on the left have done a lousier job.
First off, the Liberals and the NDP had a shot at working together, about two years ago, but they blew it. The forces of the left allowed themselves to be scared off of co-operation/coalition/merger by Harper — despite the fact Harper himself had brought together the forces of the right, and then won government.
Paler shade of blue
Secondly, Michael Ignatieff feels more comfortable among Rosedalian Liberals. You know, the ones who — over martinis at the Toronto Tennis Club — always felt more kinship with the likes of John Turner or Paul Martin than they did with, say, Pierre Trudeau or Jean Chretien. You know, Liberal lefties who win elections.
Thirdly, Iggy and his Rosedalian senior staff thought they could ignore Jack Layton’s NDP. By becoming a paler shade of blue, they assured themselves they’d win back government. Thus, the Liberal chief was more hawkish than Harper on Afghanistan, more enthusiastic about the oilsands, and more willing to look at Medicare “alternatives” than any Liberal ever should. In so doing, Iggy scared away soft NDP voters, all of whom now consider Iggy to be a paler version of Harper.
What’s the solution for the left? Same as it was two years ago: Listen to smart guys like Chretien, Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow and bring together progressives to form a single, formidable political force. That’s how to beat Harper.
The good news, I suppose, is those of us on the political left will now have four long years to get our act together.
Because, believe me, on May 3, this leftie ain’t going to be the only stranger in an even stranger right-wing land.