Friday, June 04, 2010

Pass the popcorn, Scott Reid is tilting at coalition windmills

Scott Reid – yes, that Scott Reid – is working himself up into a righteous lather on the op/ed pages of the Globe and Mail today on the coalition issue. Thing is, I’m not entirely clear just who he’s in such a dander about, because he goes off the rails in his very first sentence:

Inexact language and a shocking lack of constitution are lending momentum to the dangerously flawed idea of a formal coalition between the Liberals and NDP prior to the next election campaign.

And who, exactly is proposing a “formal coalition” happen “prior” to the next election? I would love to meet these straw men that Scott spends the next 800-odd words arguing against with such energy because, frankly, I’m not aware of many Liberals, certainly of any prominence or with any vigor, who are arguing for a pre-election coalition at all. A merger, pre-election coalition, joint candidates, none of that is seriously on the table.

Instead of picking an extreme to build-up and then argue against, Scott would have done better to address what the vast majority of the people, certainly on the Liberal side, currently raising the coalition issue are actually talking about: the possibility of a post-election coalition.

Speaking for myself, and indeed I think many other Liberals, all we’re asking is that a post-election coalition between the Liberals and the NDP remain on the table, if the math warrants it. That’s it. I agree with all of Scott’s reasons why pre-election coalitions and/or mergers are bad ideas, so he can save his typing. My issue is that the current Liberal leadership is explicitly ruling-out the possibility of a post-election coalition. That, by and large, is what this debate is about. Not preemptively limiting our options.

Rather than tilting at windmills, I’d rather Scott tackle the real issue.

I do agree with Scott on this, though:

There is an obvious and superior alternative: Do better. Improve the effort, sharpen the message and bring the fight. In the weeks and months to come, the ambition of the Liberal Party should be to defeat Stephen Harper.

That is true, but let me put a slightly different spin on it than Scott. The simple fact is there's a reason why there's suddenly all this coalition talk: we're weak. We're floundering in the polls, our leader is unpopular, we're not resonating with the public. People from the centre and left are desperate to be rid of Stephen Harper but they don't see how that can realistically happen right now, and they certainly don't see how we can do it solo. So they're grasping at a coalition as a means to the end.

The way to end coalition talk is to make it unnecessary. If the Liberal Party was seen as a viable alternative government that could legitimately defeat the Conservatives, if we were competitive with them in the polls and the chance of governing on our own wasn't seen as a Vegas long-shot, then these conversations wouldn't be happening.

If I saw some light at the end of the tunnel, or at least had the confidence we had a strategy that could get us there, I’d be happy to buckle-down as Scott suggests. But I don’t. Our party has suffered a steady erosion in support for over a decade that we haven’t yet come to grips yet, and Scott had a front-row seat.

It’s time for new ideas. Not tilting at windmills. You want to stop this coalition talk? The answer is simple: stop sucking.

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Quixotique said...

Agh, Jeff, I wish you could pick a different analogy than tilting at windmills in this instance ...

Jeff said...

You mean you're not Scott Reid? :)

Quixotique said...

As my doppelganger would say: Comparisons are odious.

Anthony said...

you know Jeff,

talks about a coalition prior to an election are a de facto merger, unless you really want to split the vote.

thats what has many people worried.

Jeff said...

And Antonio that's not what I, nor hardly anyone else, are advocating. I don't want a lot of coalition talk either. All I'm saying -- again, all I'm saying -- is don't rule out doing something post-election.

It's that simple. Don't talk about it. Just don't rule it out.

Instead, Scott Reid, and many of the other senior insiders arguing so violently against this, are deliberately misrepresenting that position, because they don't have the gumption to debate the actual issue on its merits. And it's pretty dammed weak.

My read is that Reid et al don't want to consider any sort of co-operation post-election to unseat Harper either. I think that's stupid, but it's a valid view. Instead of defending that position though, he'd rather pretend the debate is about selling the soul of the party in a merger marriage. He's misrepresenting the views of his opponents in an attempt to marginalize them, and I'm calling bullshit.

And frankly, people like Scott Reid need to get it out of their heads that all we need to do is hunker down and wait for Harper to defeat himself. Newsflash to Scott, who is no more of a strategic genius than he was when he worked for Paul Martin - it ain't happening. Ian Davey's 5 steps the other day were equally misguided. They just don't get it.

They seem to want me to just trust them. Don't worry, be happy. Well, I don't trust them. So in the absence of any sense of the leadership having any kind of a plan or a clue, I'd just assume not rule anything out.

penlan said...

I'm with you on this. Shut up about it pre-election but IF necessary a possible post-election possibility. Plus all this coalition talk is falling right into Harper's hands to set a more solid frame/talking point for the next election.

I don't know what's wrong with the Lib Party but they, & Ignatieff, are pathetic. I have no trust nor confidence in them to do the right thing on just about everything at this point in time.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

I see things differently. I don't think Reid is stupid. I think he knowingly tilted at windmills, passionately, to allow him to slip in the crucial paragraph, without fuss. He's assuming all Libs are smart enough to realise that in middle of piece he's acknowledging coalition with others, post-election, is legitimate (which, given he was pro-2008 coalition, is no surprise). His position is in fact yours, mine, Tribe's and everyone's, "no prejudging, not ruling it out, we'll see - but voting Liberal to stop Cons is best bet, as always":

"It’s important to clarify these terms. Typically in Canadian experience, a coalition between parties is understood to mean a parliamentary alliance established in the aftermath of a general election – usually a minority circumstance. This is in keeping with accepted traditions of both the country and the party. Post-electoral coalitions of a formal and informal nature have populated minority parliaments frequently over the past century and Liberals have often taken part. CONSIDERATION OF SUCH COALITIONS SHOULD DEFINITELY BE MAINTAINED IN FUTURE."

Maybe, BCer, you're just playing along with his game, Kinsella too. If so well-played. But he said all I wanted to hear.

Jeff said...

efl, I'm think I'm far less Machiavellian that you may think...

And I don't need hidden messages in Scott Reid columns. A clear and unequivocal statement from the leader is what I need to hear at this point.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Re. Statement from Leader Needed: I concur.