Sunday, September 24, 2006

There's a little Bob Rae in all of us

So, apparently Bob Rae has reinforced his view that ideas aren’t that important, and that we’re electing a leader, not an agenda. Needless to say, much tut tutting has ensued across the Liberal blogsphere.

But really, who are we to get upset about Rae stating what would seem to be obvious to anyone that has followed the Liberal Party of Canada over the past, oh, let’s say, forever? When have we ever been the party of ideas? Have we not always been the party of power for power’s sake? Was it not just weeks ago that people were lamenting the lack of a Pierre Trudeau, a charismatic leader, in this race?

I think leadership races SHOULD be about ideas, about an agenda. I think our leadership race NEEDS to be about ideas, and about an agenda. But they haven't ever been. It’s up to us to make that happen, and we haven’t yet. It’s like the people that tell pollsters they’re outraged about gory photos in the newspaper, and yet buy a copy when they see those photos on the front page. We’re not being honest with ourselves.

Our history shows we don’t care about ideas. We care about electability, charisma, winability. We want that messiah to lead us back to the promised land. That’s true at all levels of the party. Look at the lack of policy similarity between endorsers and their endorsees and it’s obvious. Leadership races aren’t about ideas because we haven’t valued ideas.

If we want it to be about ideas then we need to show that. We need to demand that. In the mean time, to attack someone for stating the obvious is just silly. Because when you point a finger, there's always three pointing back at you.

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Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Wasn't this particular race about renewal? Wasn't Harper's pretend policies and agenda (to step towards a majority) what help make him win because people wanted change? I know only between 5% and 9% liked his policies but they did represent change. Kind of a contradiction isn't it?

People wanted change and if the Liberals stay in their prior comfy non-committal stance they haven't got a hope in hell.

The Liberals have to show Canadians that they have changed and they have new ideas and visions for the times. This is 2006 after all.

Olaf said...

Great post, Jeff... I think that it is for that very reason that many reject the Liberal party, as in my case.

Mike said...

But Bob Rae is right, you elect a leader who can lead. Ideas are important but secondary. Remember, the second and third place folks will still be leaders in the party, will be shadow and then real cabinet ministers and chances are, at the end of it all, the Party will have a platform that takes the best ideas from ALL of the top contenders.

You get the best of both worlds - a bunch of great ideas, a bunch a well-known leaders and a bunch of new, creative policies that the party can stand by.

What is wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

You cannot have the policy without the leadership - that is the point. Bob has unveiled all sorts of policy, but the party in turn has to have consensus on policy - so how far should a leadership candidate go in setting out policy? It is not for any one leader to rely on his own policies .

Psychols said...

Dammit, I was prepared to disagree vehemently but you tempered your comments with what the Liberals should do.

There is no proof that Canadians rejected the Liberal vision for Canada. Some voters punished the Liberals for Adscam, the infighting and perceived arrogance.

Renewal does not have to mean a rejection of the history of the Liberal party. A new "vision" is unnecesary. It may even backfire if it morphs the Liberals into NDP lite or CPC lite.

Anonymous said...

The Ignatieff people seized on Rae's comments because they don't want to talk about what Bob is saying about Iggy's policies, like foreign policy or the constitution. Bob has had lots of policy announcements and pronouncements - most of which stand up far better. Leaders also cannot get too far out ahead of membership and other candidates, cause at end of day all have got to agree.

Skeena Liberal said...

I agree with you A BCEr in Toronto

...........Ok I will be repeating the same comments on this blog and others who support Bob Rae for the leadership of the liberal party. I have lived Toronto for three and half i didnot experience rae's period of reign. When I considered whom to support for the race...i asked approximately 100 liberal supporters would they support Mr rae and vote for the party? Every single answer was like this "NO"...I then asked approximately 50 non-liberal supporters the same question..they looked at with glee and happines.. What is the conclusion of this ..simple electing Bob Rae a man with no ideas who is still a socialist at heart means losing approximately 30 to 40 seats in ontario, and with his pitiful performance so far in new memberships in places such as saskatchewan and manitoba ..result of further erosion in our support. Mr rae has presented no new ideas during the campaign and to be blunt would lead our party into oblivion.
PS - the liberals asked were from various ridings in the 905 and 416 area code and were not swing voters ..i consider the sample size large enough to be accurate...

Jason Cherniak said...

I'm sorry, but I think that this post is overly cynical and just plain wrong.

The entire summer, Liberals were talking about the ideas of Dion, Ignatieff and Brison. Before they dropped out, Bevilacqua and Bennett did a great job of talking ideas. Near the end of the summer, Kennedy and Dryden also got into ideas mode. Even Hall-Findlay has mostly made a name for herself by discussion issues, even if she has not proposed solutions.

Meanwhile, Bob Rae has avoided ideas. Instead, he focused on seeming like the most confortable "leader". Unfortunately, this even convinced Bevilacqua and Bennett to support him dispite the fact that he represents the polar opposite of the ideas that they argued for.

I agree that there are a lot of cynical people out there, but to suggest that this entire campaign has avoided ideas just because Rae recently had some media success is misleading.

A BCer in Toronto said...

But Bob Rae is right, you elect a leader who can lead. Ideas are important but secondary.

But you need both Mike. You need ideas, and you need to be able to lead. A person with great ideas but crappy leadership skills will never get elected, and get the chance to implement their ideas. A leader with no ideas is just a stuffed shirt, constantly shifting their principles to suit the latest polling. We've been down that road before. We need both.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Jason, I'm not saying people haven't been talking about ideas, nor do I agree with Rae. I think he's accurare in that we haven't been valuing ideas, but wrong in that ideas don't matter. They haven't, but they should.

We've been TALKING about ideas over the summer, that's correct. But I think, broadly speaking, we haven't been DEBATING ideas. We've been trumpeting those of our own candidate, and poo pooing or attacking those of their opponents.

I never suggested anyone has been avoding ideas. My point is that we haven't been VALUING ideas. You mention Maurizio and Carolyn, and they're perfect cases in point. They talked about ideas, but when it came time to drop out, they endorsed a guy who, not only doesn't value ideas, but holds posistions on many cases directly opposed to what they had been espousing. While they talked about ideas, in the end they discarded ideas and went with the candidate they evaluated as the most winnable.

An overly cynical take? Perhaps. I'd prefer to say a view tempered by experience.

Psychols said...

Hmmm, Rae's recording just called. Vague references to vision and leadership coupled with a clear, but unsubstantiated, claim that he can beat the Conservatives left me unconvinced. I'm still supporting the candidate that I feel will make the best PM.

Penny said...

Rae has ideas... Check his site. I don't particularly like them, but they are ideas!

But I'll tell you who not only has great ideas, but knows how to get them put into action. Check this and this

Lyle said...

Bob Rae has quite a bit up on on his website, including these speeches:

A BCer in Toronto said...

I know Bob has ideas, although like you Penny I don't care for many of them. It's because of his ideas that Bob won't get my vote, not because he doesn't think ideas are important or gave a few bucks to some old NDP friends.

burlivespipe said...

At least BCiTO admitted the hole in his post... and admittedly Bob's closing statement 2 weeks ago likely helped cause too many uninformed or just purely partisan bloogers droned on and on. The Rae team has ideas, has talked about them and is now setting the ground as to why they believe he is the better choice for leader. Like him or not, he is the one most schooled and prepared for the job of leader of the party -- he's been one before, worked the thrust and jab of Parliament and met and sparred with many great parliamentarians. His vision and understanding of issues covers the gamut you would need to be leader of gov't and opposition.
He's now talking about the choice ahead -- are we prepared to remain opposition while a new leader learns the ropes, possibly handing over a majority to Harpor in the process? Can we afford the reduction of our safety nets, the whittling away of our Canadian programs and the idea that gov't should make a difference where and when needed, not just when absolutely necessary?
There are some very very good people running in this campaign and I have no trouble absolutely supporting almost all of the ones left -- Hedy having just withdrawn, hopefully Joe's next -- but having a ton of ideas and a grasp on the grassroot issues won't necessarily be enuf to whet the Canadian voter nor rebuild the party. We are not starting from scratch. A great leader will incorporate the best ideas and energies from the crew who challenged him/her, and dig deeper to find better ones.
This is not a policy convention, per say, but we will be making decisions that affect our direction in policy and renewal.
I don't see Bob Rae being conflicted with all the options on the table. I see him as the best choice.
Partisans like Jason seem to only see the landscape they choose, repeating the most obvious rants while not challenging themselves until forced to see the light. I'm all in favour of looking at each candidate's strengths and perceived weaknesses, and challenging that.
And i challenge the bs of francesco, who seems to have forgotten that Rae led all teams in signing up new members in Saskatchewan, and that perhaps his/her 100 friends are possibly from the same minded camp as he/she is. Polls are what dogs sniff around, but they have also pointed to a lot of mistruths about Rae and his potential.