Thursday, March 10, 2011

To The Next Liberal Leader - Fight the Right From the Left

That's a lesson the current guy, the amazing vanishing Liberal leader, and his entourage never understood - you can't fight the Right from the right.  That's where you go to disappear from the public mind.  The political centre can't hold when you position yourself to the right of it.   There's only three things you can do from the centre-right - you can sell out your party, you can sell out your country, and you can sell out your countrymen.   Just don't expect the elector to thank you for it at the polls.

And don't think you can make them believe you're progressive by trying the old Mercantile Politics trick.   You can throw them arts funding and day care and home health care and universal education and that's all pretty good but it won't be enough to get you off the hook.   Without a cohesive narrative that directly confronts the Right, your message (if there even is one) is fragmented, incoherent.

The next successful Liberal leader will probably look like a bit of a firebrand compared to the milquetoasts the party has offered up lately.   Trust me, that will be a good thing.  She will have a clear, understandable vision of our country that rings with the disengaged public.   She will not shirk from addressing the several serious problems our country will face this century, in the short and long run.   Hint - we expect people in Ottawa to be able to candidly discuss these challenges with us.  And then she will explain the range of measures we'll need to evaluate to reach the policy decisions we'll need to meet these challenges head on.   She will not, unlike the current mismanagement, bury her head in the  sand.

Americans are slowly waking up to the realization that they're caught up in a class war, one that began years before they understood what was happening.  This is a war that pits the forces of corporatism (and they're not only Republicans) against the, as yet, disorganized forces of progressivism.  With the ascendancy of Bush the Lesser, sockpuppet of Cheney the Dick, the Corporatists succeeded in stealing a huge march on the Progressives while their nation was traumatized in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.   The United States, for the benefit of the Corporatists, was transformed into a warfare state.  American foreign policy was geared to war without end.   Corporate warfighting was seamlessly woven into America's military machine.   The United States, for the benefit and on behalf of the Corporatists, came to spend more on its military institutions and activities than every other nation in the world combined while simultaneously running ruinous deficits yet implementing tax cuts for the very richest.   Now the trick becomes to blame the fiscal nightmare on the working public - from public service unions to ordinary citizens merely expecting the Social Security benefits they paid for their entire working lives.

Canadians aren't embroiled in class warfare as we see it today in the United States, not as such, not as much, not yet.   That said, it's not illogical that we may get dragged into it.   Already the Fraser Institute and its stooges are beginning to champion the notion of tax cuts for the rich, the long-discredited "trickle down" theory.  And our two "leaders," one out of ideological inclination, the other out of spinelessness, would see Canada as bound to march lockstep with our larger, southern cousin whether that be on monetary, tax, trade, energy or environmental policy.   Call it "veiled integration" if you like, the iron fist in a silk glove.

Astonishingly, all is not lost for the Progressives.   In fact they could handily win over the Corporatists.   The important question is not whether they will win but whether they will win in time.   All the skirmishes fought today are a mere prelude to the final battle, the war over global warming and what must be done about it.

Progressive activist and writer, Naomi Klein, says there's a powerful reason the Right treats climate change like outright, villanous heresy - because it will dismember virtually all that they have won in their wars with the Progressives.

"  Why is climate change seen as such a threat? I don’t believe it’s an unreasonable fear. I think it’s unreasonable to believe that scientists are making up the science. They’re not. It’s not a hoax. But actually, climate change really is a profound threat to a great many things that right-wing ideologues believe in. So, in fact, if you really wrestle with the implications of the science and what real climate action would mean, here’s just a few examples what it would mean.
"  It would mean upending the whole free trade agenda, because it would mean that we would have to localize our economies, because we have the most energy-inefficient trade system that you could imagine. And this is the legacy of the free trade era. So, this has been a signature policy of the right, pushing globalization and free trade. That would have to be reversed.

"  You would have to deal with inequality. You would have to redistribute wealth, because this is a crisis that was created in the North, and the effects are being felt in the South. So, on the most basic, basic, "you broke it, you bought it," polluter pays, you would have to redistribute wealth, which is also against their ideology.

"  You would have to regulate corporations. You simply would have to. I mean, any serious climate action has to intervene in the economy. You would have to subsidize renewable energy, which also breaks their worldview.

"  You would have to have a really strong United Nations, because individual countries can’t do this alone. You absolutely have to have a strong international architecture.

"  So when you go through this, you see, it challenges everything that they believe in. So they’re choosing to disbelieve it, because it’s easier to deny the science than to say, "  OK, I accept that my whole worldview is going to fall apart,"   that we have to have massive investments in public infrastructure, that we have to reverse free trade deals, that we have to have huge transfers of wealth from the North to the South. Imagine actually contending with that. It’s a lot easier to deny it.

But what I see is that the green groups, a lot of the big green groups, are also in a kind of denial, because they want to pretend that this isn’t about politics and economics, and say, "  Well, you can just change your light bulb. And no, it won’t really disrupt. You can have green capitalism."   And they’re not really wrestling with the fact that this is about economic growth. This is about an economic model that needs constant and infinite growth on a finite planet. So we really are talking about some deep transformations of our economy if we’re going to deal with climate change. And we need to talk about it."

On this one Naomi Klein is absolutely correct (if only because she's saying what I've been writing on this site for years).   The Corporatist ways, the ways advanced by the big money boys like Murdoch and the Koch brothers, are running headlong into reality.   They've positioned themselves on the wrong side of this fight because they're too old, too decrepit and just plain too damned greedy to get on the right side.   They plan to fight this out from their bunkers and, once you get into that mentality, you bolt the door.   They're gambling everything on the hope that some technological "fix" will be found that will make this threat all go away.   In the meantime they'll aggressively fight a rearguard action - and they're doing very well at it.

There's really no getting around it.  18th century capitalism, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geo-politics have run their course.  They have lost their utility.  They have done much for us and much to us.  Harnessed to constant technological advances and seemingly boundless energy resources they enabled our species to triple in numbers in one century and massively increase our per capita consumption at the same time.   The trouble is that more and more and more cannot be infinitely accommodated by a finite planet with very finite resources.   Eventually all the oxygen in the room must be consumed.  For the first time in many generations, we'll be able to dictate far fewer aspects of our future.

The Corporatists are gearing up for a class war they're bound to lose.  Eventually they might even have to resort to force to try to retain "what's theirs" but they can't hope to prevail over the planet itself or the manner in which it dictates we must act in order to keep it liveable for our species.

These truths must percolate up to Canada's political leadership and, especially, the Liberal leader.   There are great challenges ahead, enormous difficulties to be overcome, but there are also plenty of opportunities for a country as naturally advantaged as Canada if we have the foresight to recognize them and utilize them in sufficient time.   Many of those natural advantages we have will be lost or severely diminished by delay and inaction which is what we face if we continue to lash Canadian policy to American policy.

This doesn't mean we have to tilt at windmills, to do the unthinkable, to toss the existing order.   What it means is openly recognizing the need to explore the challenges that face our country, to engage the public in their own future, to evaluate our options and then, having chosen, to begin the lengthy process of timing and implementation.   If we have to abandon "business as usual" as that was understood by so many previous generations, it won't be a matter of whimsical choice but one of necessity.   We must do what is necessary and time is not on our side.

We need new leadership for the Liberal party, a leader more than just a cut above the current offering.  We must have a leader who can fight to restore our political centre, one who can win and that will be a leader who understands you have to fight the Right from the Left.   We need a leader who fully realizes that the world is changing rapidly and that we either ride that change or get left behind.


Ian said...

It sounds like you're not aligned with the correct party. The Liberal party is not, and has never been, a party of the left. It is a centrist party at best, and a centre-right party often. Look at Chretien, Martin, and Ignatieff. The backroom leaders of the party didn't take fondly to Dion.

This is even more odd to me since the NDP exists successfully in Canada, currently holding 2 provincial governments (and potentially BC soon), and capturing a non-negligible number of seats in Parliament.

It seems your only real reason for sticking with the Grits is the mistaken belief that they have the only key to winning a majority. Of course, with a united right, that will never happen, so at the very least I think you ought to be arguing for a Liberal leader who would work with the NDP (and potentially the Bloc) for a Progressive government of Canada.

Anonymous said...

The NDP also have the wrong narrative, while they revile the Corporatist their labour roots make them parasites on the corporate body. Yes they will claim they want to solve climate change but they do it by demanding more unionized manufacturing jobs in the belief we can and will have endless growth and green cars rather than zero growth and less cars.

They do it by clear cutting to create jobs, they do it by suggesting cap and trade which enriches banks, speculators and day traders.

Localization is not going to mean Canadian made cars but Kingston/London/Ottawa produced bikes, food, drugs etc, the day of the large employer and unionization may well be over, the NDP need to accept this and stop sending mixed messages.

The narrative needs to compassion, community building, open democracy, reasonable expectation, peace and self sufficiency.

I don't see this from the NPD I do see this from some, only some green Candidates yet even they fail at the party level when it comes to telling us what we need rather than telling us what they think we want and soft selling the real changes that are comming

The Mound of Sound said...

Actually, Ian, I am no longer aligned with the Liberals or any other party. That said, I am no fan of the NDP although I have had great respect for Harcourt, Romanow and David Lewis.

I don't accept that a "united right" is indivisible. In fact I suspect there are great strains within it and within its supporting voters.

Things change, they always change.

The Mound of Sound said...

@Anon 12:40. I think some of your suggestions would represent too radical a transformation of Canadian society to ever be popularly acceptable.

Like you I do believe the NDP to be cynical and hypocritical. That much was obvious when Layton joined Harper to scupper Dion's carbon tax proposal which is the only viable solution to effective carbon emissions reduction. In that Layton laid bare his willingness to put his personal political fortunes ahead of the future of the country and he's always been an opportunistic greaseball to me ever since. He's despicable.

I share your views on the need for a political philosophy that truly incorporates "compassion, community building, open democracy, reasonable expectation, peace and self sufficiency."

There are good reasons why the Canadian public are politically disengaged. With today's leadership how could it be otherwise. The way forward begins with re-engaging those people, addressing their long-neglected concerns and treating them as adults rather than pandering to them as though they were children. We need to build their courage not feed off their fears.

LMA said...

Localize the economy, deal with inequality, regulate corporations, develop international policies ... yes, this is what has to happen.

The big problem seems to me to be our unwillingness to accept the reality that we have to sacrifice and reduce consumption drastically. The race to renewables is a step in the right direction, but even then the message sometimes seems to be that if only we transition to green energy, we can carry on as usual, e.g., the "Carbon Nation" film.

I'm just not sure most Canadians are ready or willing to cut back on unlimited economic growth. Perhaps our political "leaders" are telling us what we want to hear?

Anonymous said...

'I think it’s unreasonable to believe that scientists are making up the science.'

I don't think its unreasonable, I would make it up if I were a scientist. I actually know a working scientist who is a vocal climate skeptic, yet he openly admits that in order to secure his annual research funding he always links his research proposals to climate change. He says he feels guilty for this, it goes against his personal convictions, but he's a pragmatist, he does what is necessary to continue his research. And if linking climate change to his research will do the trick, he does it. His research is academic and does not have much in the way of commercial application, so government funding is how he survives. Canadian government funding. Climate change is his path to continued research. He's not making up the science, but it's a no brainer to link it to climate change, and this is how he secures his funding. I don't blame him one bit, these are your taxes at work folks. The alarmist lefties claim now that virtually everything is caused by climate change, well I'm not surprised. I wonder just how many scientists are out there who do the same thing?

The Mound of Sound said...

@Anon10:10. I'm sorry you get your perspective on global warming-driven climate change from what appears to be an admitted charlatan whose science is so weak that he feels he needs to link it to climate change to receive grants. That speaks enormously for his credibility.

Now you, I'm sure, probably wear long pants. How many scientists do you think are out there doing research that has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change? Or, of all the working scientists today, what small percentage are engage in climate change research? You see once you place it in the great warm blanket of perspective, your "friend's" remarks take on that clear stank of bullshit.

What you've said is that he does supposed research that is not focused on climate change but is unscrupulous enough to deliberately link it to climate change he rejects to get grants. That sounds just a wee bit fraudulent, don't you think? By the way, any chance this character is a Conservative?

Given what you've said about this guy and that it's rank hearsay if not "pub talk" in any case, I won't place any credence in it. Now move along.