You can’t start a new post on ‘being a former Liberal’ without a few caveats.
I’ve tried rationalizing my perspective on this issue a million different ways: the party’s internal wars had finally stamped out any voices of renewal, nobody knew what being Liberal really meant anymore, it’s all really just ancient history now.
I spent the last few elections simply angry at the Liberals for a lot of reasons; on a strictly personal level, I was mad that I felt as if I had wasted years of my time on them at university for a result that ended up filling me with a lot of bad memories and personal regrets.
Of course, many elements of the party did alienate me. I felt jilted. I can’t let them off the hook personally for that. I also know it was me — inexperienced, self-righteous and more than a little naive — that didn’t ‘get’ how modern political parties really work. I wasn’t up to snuff back then. I drank the Kool-Aid right from the beginning without knowing what I was drinking, as it were, and then got angry at the people who served it up to me instead of taking responsibility for myself.
The upside — the only true, long-term one — was meeting some truly great people that I’m still friends with.
Still, during those elections of 2006 and 2008, I didn’t vote Liberal. I deliberately voted against them, knowing that I’m just one guy and one vote doesn’t matter nearly as much in an antiquated, first-past-the-post political reality.
The thing is, I’m not angry at them anymore. But with the party now getting hammered in the polls on a national level and Michael Ignatieff virtually assured to be ousted as party leader, I’m starting to question a lot about what the outcome and long-term implications of a badly beaten Liberal Party would be.
My central question is this: in the pursuit of some mythical perfect Liberal Party that will never exist, have people like me – ex-Liberals – sacrificed the greater good in favour of burning the whole Liberal house down?
Logically, I know the Liberal Party has to hit rock bottom to change for the better. The brand is in serious trouble, regardless if you believe the poll numbers. A sea change in Canadian politics is happening because the Liberal Party, for whatever reasons, didn’t resonate with Canadians this time en masse.
And make no mistake: as much as a person can rant and rave at people for believing such-and-such about Stephen Harper being ‘good for Canada’ or why Jack Layton’s promises are unrealistic or whatever, there’s no value judgment when it comes to our collective cultural attitudes about Canadian politics this time. Culture is never wrong. The people are reflecting what they want and the seismic shift is happening with or without the Liberals’ consent.
But I digress. Now that we’re witnessing something dramatic in the Liberal Party’s fortunes, the bigger point remains clearer than ever to me: a personal act of insurrection against the Liberals — whether it’s not voting for them or whatever it may be — is easy to do when the impact of that decision can’t be seen immediately.
I fear that, for people like me, the great dust off we’ve given to the Liberals is providing the Conservatives an opportunity to remake this country in ways that are questionable and possibly destructive. I have no idea what the implications of a Conservative majority are, if it indeed happens. I’m not sure I want to contemplate that reality, either. Canada has become a meaner, harder place over the past several years and I’m not sure I want that kind of Canada.
I also don’t know if the NDP is capable of leading a government; it’s very easy to be critical of a government, much harder to actually be in power. Go ask Bob Rae about how that worked out.
Yet beyond all this, I’m starting to have doubts about the morality and ethics of this democratic insurrection.
The Liberal Party is not perfect. The Liberal Party has a lot of toxic elements in it. Yet is the party worth saving?
Yes. But not because they’re Liberals. It’s because the long-term sacrifice may be too high.