Saturday, June 23, 2012

Is Uniting the Left a Good Idea?

Give Stephen Harper credit for one thing, he is driven and he is relentless. It was his opinion and that of Reformist architect Preston Manning (and several other Neo-Con, Western, Evangelicals) that the Mulroney led Progressive Conservative Party of the Eighties didn't speak for them. To them, the PCs were far too "Liberal" in their actions and not representative of Western Canada, specifically Alberta. The Social Credit Party of Ernest Manning, Preston's Father, had all but disappeared and so did the voice of the far-right- Western Separatists. Hence, the creation of the Reform Party of Canada in 1987. It was to this party that a young WASP Evangelical - "Steve" Harper - was attracted and as National Campaign Manager in 1988,  saw him, coin the election slogan "The West Wants In".   

But the Reform Party of Preston Manning could never shake the perception of being a narrow minded,  extremest party despite gaining Official Opposition Status during the Chretien years. It was a purely Western-centric group who couldn't buy a seat east of Manitoba, even after changing it's Name to the euphemistic Alliance Party of Canada. The Alliance's first leader, Stockwell Day, being an adherent of Young Earth Creationism (which holds that men walked with dinosaurs among other such nonsense) proved to be an embarrassment and a huge disappointment. This set the stage for the ascendancy of Steve Harper, the Great Western Hope in 2002. 

It was during the time between the end of the Mulroney years in 1993 and the unification of the "Right" in 2003 that the Progressive Conservatives, or Red Tories all but lost their political voices. The PCs had been reduced to third and fourth party status during the Chretien years and many traditional Tories felt they had more in common with the Liberals than with the bizarre collection of Reformist Neo-Cons from the West. Despite the fact that the Right was fractured between the two political entities, the faltering Progressive Conservatives still preferred to cling to their autonomy and hence their own voice, weak as it was, as opposed to jumping into bed with the Reformists. 

But then the unthinkable happened, The Progressive Conservatives were betrayed by their own leader, Peter MacKay in 2003 who sought merger with the Neo-Cons. But at the time of the merger, the PCs were so weakened that they were gobbled up by the ravenous, power hungry Alliance led by Stephen Harper. Harper and his band of Neo-Cons were then free to appropriate the Conservative name and anoint Harper himself as the savior of the political Right. And by gaining the Conservative name (after promptly dropping the "Progressive" label), Harper and his Western-centric group of radicals now had the illusion of credibility they never had before and were able to fool voters in Central and Eastern Canada into thinking that the Conservative Party of Canada (as the new Reformist abomination came to be known as) was the same Conservative Party of Diefenbaker, Stanfield and Mulroney. 

Many of the old PCs who joined the united Right bandwagon erroneously believed that the Tory voice would once again echo throughout the Halls of Parliament. It was their chance to regain power and to punish and ultimately extinguish the Liberal Party for becoming all too cocky in their belief that they were the "natural" governing party in Canada. But as time has passed, from 2003 until now, and as the Harper led Conservatives have gone from Minority to Majority Government status, it has become all too apparent that the old moderate PCs- the "Red" Tories and the socially progressive Conservatives- have in fact, lost their voices all together. They have been all but choked off by the autocratic Harper and his "Gestapo-like" staff at the PMO. There is one voice and only one voice in the current Conservative Party and that belongs to Stephen Harper. 

Harper controls his party with an iron fist and there is no room what so ever for dissenting voices. Anyone who dares speak out against the government is attacked, discredited, fired and ultimately silenced. Conservative MPs who don't spout the CPC talking points and rhetoric at every turn are "re-educated". This is nowhere as apparent as with the recent passage of bill C-38. Back-benchers such as David Wilks, who expressed any reservation about the monstrously undemocratic bill quickly had their individuality erased and were reduced to "cheer-leader" status during the subsequent voting in the House. 

Harper's performance and the lack of ethical behaviour by his party is beginning to stir up dissent among some grass-roots Conservatives including previous PC Ministers and Provincial counterparts. They know this party that is Conservative in name only (and certainly undeserving of the Tory label which the media has bestowed upon them) does not speak for them.  It is clear to them that the Ideologically driven pro-reformists in the party have no tolerance for political moderates. And though this is still early days as far as the Harper majority goes, the possibility of a palace revolt is not out of the question. At the very least, it could well lead to the political Right becoming splintered once more as Progressive Conservatives seek to distance them selves from the tyrannical Harper.  

Which brings me back to my original statement about unification of the Political Left. It seems to me, and it is only my opinion, that the motivation for unification of the Left is identical to the reasons that saw the political Right become a single entity. The Liberals and New Democrats joining forces would serve one purpose and one purpose only, to overthrow the Harperites - much as the PCs and Alliance came together with the express purpose of deposing the Chretien Liberals. But if the parties of the left do join forces and manage to overthrow King Stephen, then What?? A unified Left would theoretically represent a broad spectrum of people- What Michael Ingatieff referred to as the "Big Red Tent". What would their mandate be? Who's voice would be dominant? Would it be the Centrist Liberals? The more Socialist inclined NDP? Would merger eliminate the Socialist voice in favour of a more corporate friendly entity? And what of the environmentally conscious Greens? 

Personally, I think there is not only room, but an absolute need for all of these so-called "Leftist" voices to be heard in our House of Commons. And yes, I even think there is room for progressive Tories as well. It is called balance, it is giving voice to all Canadian people and their various beliefs. No one segment of society has the right to bulldoze the others in the name of it's own ideology, thinking  that theirs is the only right system of beliefs and that all the others are wrong. Democracy is about consensus building, about doing what is right for the collective, not the selective few. Therefore the more disparate voices that can be heard in the House of Commons, the better. 

If the political Left were seeking to join forces in order to build on their strengths and commonalities, I would be all in favour of it. However, the voices of unification are being raised for one purpose only, to defeat something, to overcome something, to gain power, not to create something better that might be all inclusive. Therefore, I believe the Left should remain the way it is. All the many and varied voices in the vast political tapestry to the Left of Center are far too valuable to be gobbled up and packed into one all encompassing and vague entity just as the Harperites cannot hope to ever speak for all the people who are truly Conservative of one variety or another.

I recommend then, that instead of the parties of the Left joining forces, they should seek to strengthen their identities, hone their messages, reaffirm the values that they hold to be true - and wait. For eventually, the Government of Harper will  self-destruct as more and more grass-roots Conservatives decide they have had enough of the the One Man Band that claims to speak for them. The Political Right will once again divide itself  as those voices that have been suppressed for so long, seek to be heard once again. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your thinking. I'm a centrist in my politics, and I am stunned by what the extreme Harperite pro-refomers have done. Just awful so far, and I betting it is going to get worse. Gotta love the hubris of Harper et al however -- when the fall comes it'll be a mighty plunge I'm betting. I hope the Red Tories will be ready to act... I am thinking Harper keeps MacKay in cabinet because MacKay is more dangerous if turfed.

    PS: love the kilt ;-)