When Canada’s Liberal Party opted for a primary-type system of choosing leaders at its recent conference, it was not thinking of the American primaries. Nor did party members envisage a witches’ cauldron from Shakespeare’s MacBeth to which the current Republican primary has descended. Liberals were obviously thinking of a much more civilized process.
It is impossible to ignore the gruesome no-holds-barred cage fighting of the current Republican campaign in Florida. It certainly attracts more interest than the somnambulant trek our New Democrats are taking to a leadership decision in March. The question in the U.S. is it really possible for the ultimate winner to recover a sliver of dignity with which to apply to American voters for the right to the White House? The Democrats in the U.S. can hardly ignore the ammunition they are being handed with which to demolish whomever might be the Republican presidential contender in November.
In the meantime, the New Democrats in Canada seem to be debating how nice each of their opponents might be. The only NDP candidate running a half-way intelligent campaign is the loser from British Columbia. And he still has a chance if he throws himself to the mercy of the party to help him fight Harper’s Northern Gateway pipeline across Northern B.C.
But we can expect the Liberal Party primary for its next leader will not be as dull as NDP love-ins nor should it be as brutal as the cage fighting of American Republicans. It will certainly help that all the voting takes place at the same time. Why the Americans have never come up with that simple solution to their primary fiascos is a mystery. The voters for the Liberal leadership will be anyone who wishes to participate and can swear that they are not a member of any other party. It not only builds your voters’ lists for election day but builds a sense of ownership in the party.
Liberals, of course, have far more scope in their arguments with each other as the political positioning of the party is of major concern to Liberal voters. If a candidate wants to be to the right of Stephen Harper, that candidate might be better off seeking Harper’s job after he loses the next election. Should a candidate want to appear to be to the left of the NDP, there is lots of room over there.
But the candidate who will receive the most attention will be the candidate who defines the broad scope of social democracy that Liberals can offer Canadians. Liberalism in Canada has never been tied to ideology but it does carry the responsibility and commitment to the individual in our society. You cannot be a right winger and call yourself a Liberal. They are anathema.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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