Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Wringing of Hands and the Gnashing of Teeth

Woe be Canada's "natural governing party." This arrogant self-description is ringing a little hollow these days. So, now it's time for the analysis. 'What went wrong?' 'Why don't they like us anymore?' 'Who stole our votes?'

And of course the post-election analysis is all about the Liberals. Why analyse such irrelevancies as the Conservative Party's much strengthened minority caucus? Why trifle with observations about the significant seat gains made by the NDP, or the fact that those gains fell well below their hopes and expectations? Why dwell on the role of the Bloc (and not the Liberals) in denying the Conservatives a majority? Hey, and there's no reason to bring up the Green Party's three per cent gain in popular vote since 2008 (from 4.5% to 7.5%)? Nope, none of this matters all that much. It's really all about the Liberals, don't you know? Just ask the CBC.

Still, in the genre of post-election 'self-flagellation' journalism, this Globe and Mail editorial does not pull its punches.

Tuesday's result was more than a setback for the party, or a disappointing result. For the Liberals, it was an unmitigated disaster. They lost 19 seats. They saw their share of the popular vote drop to 26.2 per cent. That's worse that John Turner fared in 1984, and worse than the Liberals did when John Diefenbaker nearly obliterated them in 1958. In fact, that's the party's worst share of the popular vote since Confederation. Nearly 850,000 fewer ballots were cast for the Liberals than in 2006, a drop of 19 per cent. That total, 3,629,990, is down from 5,252,031 ballots cast for the Liberals in 2000. Unless this decline is arrested soon, it may prove to be terminal for the party.

It is not only the weak leadership of St├ęphane Dion that accounts for this abysmal result, although certainly Mr. Dion had a major hand in it. (Dispense with the obligatory niceties about Mr. Dion as a man of principle, etc. The Liberal Party of Canada needs to change the locks on its door.) Nor is it the fact that the party machinery was rusty. There is something more fundamental about this failure. It is that the Liberal Party of Canada is no longer seen as a big tent. Not only has it shed core supporters by region – in the Prairies, in rural areas, in francophone Quebec, in British Columbia, in fact, just about everywhere outside the city of Toronto. It has also shed voters on the basis of its move to the left.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, Michael Valpy and Jane Taber chime in on the post hoc machinations, all the latest (knife) twists and (screw) turns of this comic opera. This passage is particularly amusing.

One well-connected party member suggested wryly that if Mr. Dion, noted for his stubbornness and a tendency not to take counsel from within his party, didn't announce quickly that he is stepping down, the party should move the furniture out of his office.

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