Sunday, July 30, 2006

We’re picking a leader, not a Canadian Idol

The Toronto Star seems to feel the current Liberal leadership race is boring, lamenting there is no Pierre Trudeau amongst the field. Frankly, what I find boring is this old, tired media line. We’re not trying to entertain the media, we’re trying to pick a leader that can lead the country.

The author laments the lack of a Trudeau and calls the field boring. Just whom, I wonder, does she think would have set things on fire? Would we have seen McKenna mania had Frank entered the race? Manley mania? Rock-mania? I very highly doubt it.

I liked Pierre Trudeau, but frankly in death he has obtained a mythic status he didn’t have in life, or at least certainly not in office, at least after 1968. It’s time we as Liberals stopped focusing on the past, and instead looked to the future.

But back to the past for one moment, the last leadership candidate to evoke some shades of PET was Paul Martin. We all know that story. I liked Paul. But even without the baggage, the warning signs were there. People saw in Paul what they wanted to see, even if it wasn’t really there. He helped that along by making so many promises he became all things to all people. Visions of Martin-mania danced through our heads, along with dreams of 308 seats. When it came time to deliver on all these promises, real or imagined, he couldn’t. They were often diametrically opposed. The result? Not much got done, and the opposition began its dithering routine.

It’s time we stopped looking for the next Trudeau/Moses to lead us from the wilderness and into the promised land. There hasn’t been a Trudeau since Trudeau. Have the Cons ever had a Trudeau? If they have, it’s not Steve. Ed Broadbent might be the NDP’s Trudeau, but I don’t think Jack is.

We have 11 candidates for the Liberal leadership, and I like most of them. There’s a number here that I think would make excellent Prime Ministers. So why have they failed to generate excitement?

Well, I don’t necessarily grant the premise, but here’s a few things to consider. We’re tired. We’ve been through two elections and now a second leadership race in just a few years. We’re also now on the opposition benches, bone weary after the events of these past few years. It’s hard to get too excited right now. Also, it’s the summer, it’s a ways until Super Weekend.

But the way you recover from an election defeat isn’t to do lots of splashy stuff that will get lots of national media play (such as jet skiing up to a dock in a wet suit). As Steve Harper learned, in this exercise the national media is really irrelevant. Rebuilding, which is our task now, is a ground game. It’s going into every riding in the country, to church basements and bake sales and clam bakes and bbqs, meeting with groups of 10 and 20 Canadians and talking about the country and our vision for it.

It may not be exciting, but that’s how you win leadership races, that’s how you win elections, and that’s how you rebuild a political party. That’s where our focus needs to be. If it fails to excite the media, frankly, I could care less.

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Sinestra said...

While you might find the thing 'boring' Linda Diebel makes a relevant point: This race is boring. Where I disagree with her is where she indicates all 11 are boring. That's simply not true, but right now NO ONE is evry exciting. We don't need a PET to inject a bit of passion into this thing - more one of the 11 is can easily do that. They just aren't....

Given the types of things she writes in her coverage of the race, it's pretty clear she resents the assignment. Her negativity does contains some nuggets and we shouldn't simply ignore what we don't want to admit.

Liberal Pebbles said...

I would say the bigger story is the loose lips of a certain PTA President.

This is gonna cause some internal party squabbling.


Liberal Pebbles

Anonymous said...

I think the problem here is Linda Diebel herself - she's a journalist and it's up to her to find something to write. I sometimes wonder if her negativity is on purpose.....that perhaps she leans to the right.

Pierre Trudeau was right for that era but this is a very new era with very new problems. We need a leader that is right for "this era".

I don't know what she expects in the summer when people are vacationing and gardening and going to jazz festivals, etc. I doubt they are paying much attention right now. Wait until fall I say and hopefully the candidates will be more in the news.

burlivespipe said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with the article -- she does have people who are willing to discuss the subject, whether she directed the discussion or not. It would have been equally as relevant for her to include a graph on 'How exciting the last race was for the Conservative leadership was' because that would have offered a comparison of sorts... I agree with Jeff that those who are shining spotlights looking for a saviour are on the wrong hunt. There are certain leaders who we are waiting for -- I joined during the days of the Turner leadership campaign and I can tell you many people were thinking 'It's about time -- he's going to take us onward and upward!'... I don't blame Turner but the fact was he had been removed from the game too long, the timing was for a bigger change, and PET did him no favours. Similar, but different story with Martin, tho I don't think the numbers show the people are demanding a major political shift.
Some leaders evolve into their role over time, and this cumbersome, ultra IronLiberal marathon (we should really demote the person who decided to make this campaign this long) is not creating conditions for any 'magic'. But I see sparks occasionally from candidates, and that there are 4-5 candidates who could command a great stage and deliver what we hope for.
There is a hohum quality right now -- I haven't heard anything from any candidates, about any appearances here in Vancouver even tho I'm certain they are coming thru. But where's Dryden? Where's Volpe? Perhaps like a smart long-distance runner, the ones who'll be in on the photo finish are pacing themselves. But right now, like the cast of Casablanca, we sit waiting, waiting...

burlivespipe said...

oh and another thing... just back from touring Red Tory's blog and what a bummer that guy is! He gives the impression of being a long-bearded veteran of the Boer war or something, and is snarking about 'no Trudeau'... How did the poor future bloggers of Canada think while surviving through the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and mid-60s survive, with no Trudeau? I guess then the ol' time Grits were complaining, ah, there's no Laurier... RT is now musing about turning green -- well good riddance (apologizes to bcinto, as RT recently gagged anonymous and other posters for some reason -- i'd reward the person who could show me how to register a blog account with a mac with a hamburger tomorrow...). Through all of his big talk and deep thinkin' the best he could come up with was Ignatieff as a choice, and it was almost a reluctant one at that! There is no perfect candidate, and from our own experience we should admit that that fact is often a good thing. The party has to do a better job of getting policy into the debates and the candidates need to open up with policy ideas, but in the end we need to deliver a policy platform that our leader can propose to the people. Clinton came out of nowhere, supposedly, to become the last charismatic leader of the western world. In truth, he slogged a lot of miles and stopped at a lot of krispy kremes before he became the 'next one'... blowing his sax on arsenio. One moment he became someone slightly known to the big buzz. Maybe Bob needs to push a piano to every media event and hit the keyboards along with the rubber chicken circuit...
But people moping around about there being 'no trudeau' need to give their heads a shake. We need to select a leader who can represent liberalism for the 21st century, not reflect an image of someone from the 20th. He only has to be measured against a small-minded, arrogant control freak in blue and no one else.