Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The false dichotomy of the Coalition

After weeks of no coalition talk, some people are drudging the subject up from the bottom again.

And like before, they're claiming that either we go with a Coalition, or we face oblivion - or, in a slightly new twist, we need a Quebecer as leader.

I respect their opinions, but this false dichotomy - also known as a "false dilemma," or when two choices presented are in fact not the only two options to choose from - needs to end now. This is a subject we should talk about, but its something that needs to be talked about in a way that all options are actually considered, and in a fair and critical manner.

Because the fact is, the Liberal Party is far from death. We're consistently one of the two main parties, always outpolling the New Democrats, on an average of about 6-8 points. We've shown that we can rebuild our party's organization, whether fundraising or membership, and we have a fairly capable leadership that has held the party together despite very trying times.

We've lost only two elections consecutively, and not by hilariously large margins. From 1957 to 1963, we lost three, one with a very large margin indeed. We then had two minority governments, which brought to us medicare, our current flag, pension reform, and Trudeau.

Then in 1984, we had our largest defeat to date, and many were once again predicting our doom. We had lackluster leadership and very few, if any, ideas. We fell behind the NDP consistently in polling. It literally looked like the end of the most successful political party in the West.

And yet we lived through all these ups and downs within our party, and people say that today is when we have no choice but to hitch our wagon with the NDP, or pack it all up? It's ridiculous and naught but political expediency at the expense of political integrity.

Is the Coalition a worthwhile idea? Yes, of course. Sometimes we need to suck it up and deal with the cards we're dealt. But the dealer has yet to even shuffle them. Like Ignatieff has said, we need to wait until after the next election before we make a decision this groundbreaking.

Until then, the choice is not Coalition or doom. We've already seen that we can rebuild the party from a truly bruising few years, full of internal strife and mismanagement. We do not have to decide right now, in the middle of this process of re-invigoration, that we're simply screwed if we do not have a Coalition or a leader from Quebec.

There is more we can do to avoid either of those "choices" right here and now, so why aren't these Coalition supporters, who claim they want to make this party win again, supporting those initiatives?

I frame it the easiest way I know how: compare it to American politics (so conveniently useful for metaphors). The Republicans are the "Party of No," because they know that if they show consistent opposition to the Democrats and the government, even in the face of bills they co-sponsor, they can maintain the false dichotomy of "its Republicans or nothing." They do this to maintain the illusion that only Republicans can make Congress work. It's denial and stubbornness straight through to the end. And you know what, it's a pretty successful strategy.

But we should know better. There is a better way of dealing with the problems in the Liberal Party, without claiming that the Coalition is the only solution. It isn't. Lets work to ensure that it doesn't become the only way to solve our issues. We're nowhere near the tipping point yet.

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