Sunday, April 03, 2005

Still shining it up...

I understand that politics is about compromise. Really I do! And while I don't categorically agree, I am also sympathetic to the view, stated nicely by The Monger and alan, that any CPC platform cobbled together to WIN (provided it is at least nominally to the right of the Liberals) is acceptable so long as it achieves its purpose.

Furthermore, I'm relatively unconcerned about the "poisoned chalice"--that the CPC would not have a mandate to enact any real changes if they're elected on a middle-of-the-road platform. (Politicians saying one thing and doing another? You woke me up for that!?!). Governments are judged far more by their actions than whether said actions matched their platform. (Take George W. - love him or hate him, he's pretty widely perceived as principled and consistent. But those principles bear very little relation to his campaign rhetoric in 2000, and in some cases, are in direct contradiction to it).

So let's set aside principles entirely for the moment. It is my contention (still) that running on a mushy, tentative platform is bad electoral politics. Alan thinks it would be "transparently stupid" to propose "a laundry list of spending cuts". I disagree. Alan also sees it as unwise to explicitly propose the removal of various business subsidies. I disagree again.

Let's look at it from a different angle: if the CPC does it Alan's way, why should we expect the election results to be different than those from June 2004?
  • Perhaps there is a critical mass of Liberal voters who were afraid of the unknown then, but are now sufficiently familiar with the CPC and their "moderate" platform to give them their votes. I think this is unlikely; you can make your own judgement.
  • Perhaps their is a critical mass of Liberal voters who were unmoved by the scandals of the previous 11 years, but 9 months later have had enough. I think this is beyond unlikely; you can make your own judgement.
  • Perhaps there is a critical mass of Liberal voters who wanted to vote CPC, but couldn't go through with it after hearing the comments of Gallant, White, and Klein, among others, and if everyone will just "stay on message" this time, that won't happen. I think this is an insane fantasy; if you judge otherwise, you might as well stop reading this.
On the other hand, the CPC could propose non-trivial spending cuts, the abolition of business subsidies, an increase in individual liberties, and some serious tax cuts--and then defend the wisdom of these proposals vigorously. This could give a critical mass of Liberal voters a reason to vote for the CPC on substance. As a bonus, a debate over a sea change in government leaves a lot less time for the media and voters alike to devote to the musings of individual candidates on the Charter, abortion, and any other allegedly toxic issue you would care to name.
In politics, as in business, the biggest rewards go to the entrepreneur -- who offers the public, not what it already knows it wants, but what had never occurred to it to want until now.*

I will continue to polish Andrew Coyne's apple on this note, because that statement is historically, observably, and (for me) intuitively true.

2 Comments:

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Sean McCormick said...

"Perhaps there is a critical mass of Liberal voters who wanted to vote CPC, but couldn't go through with it after hearing the comments of Gallant, White, and Klein, among others, and if everyone will just "stay on message" this time, that won't happen. I think this is an insane fantasy; if you judge otherwise, you might as well stop reading this."

I guess that all depends on how serious Harper was about not signing the nomination papers of anyone who acts like an asshat in the runup to the next election.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Besides the fact that I don't think it would be wise to do so, it is simply not possible for Stephen Harper to exercise the level of "message control" envisioned by some hopeful pundits. Even if it was, opponents can always drag up old comments from the memory hole.

Finally, you may note that Harper has very little power over Ralph Klein (or Craig Chandler, or retiring MPs, or Preston Manning, etc. etc. ad infinitum).

 

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