Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exceptions, Eh?

I've been ragging on Canadian Liberal bloggers recently. Here is an exception. His name is Garth Turner, and he's become absolutely notorious for his sometimes over-the-top tendency to blog pretty much everything that goes on in his party. (Also for being a bit of a loudmouth in general.)

While that tendency got him kicked out of the Conservatives, it DOES have its upsides, and one of them is an excellent comparison of the tendencies of Liberal and Conservative leadership:

Doubtlessly, they would not understand. Had my former Conservative colleagues been able to get past the security guards and pry open the two sets of doors to the Liberal national caucus meeting room Monday night, they’d be dumbfounded.

While I cannot tell you what was said, who said it, or what the consensus was, I can tell you this: for two hours Stephane Dion and his lieutenants sat and listened to MPs. The topic, as you know, was Afghanistan. The range of opinions was extreme. The number of speakers was numbing. Reaction included wild applause and uneasy silences. There was eloquence and frustration. The leader was showered with advice. And everyone who wanted to stand before one of those black floor microphones got to do so.

I watched and listened closely. Yes, I spoke too. Some of what I heard was profound. Some of it was politically naïve. Some very moving. Some dangerous.

At the end of it all, I knew what the leader’s actions would be, a conclusion I’d suspected earlier in the day during our strategic planning group meeting. It’s a strategy quintessentially Liberal and, most would say, essentially Canadian. It seeks compromise and middle ground. And it’s just what Conservatives will not understand, and likely pounce upon.

Will it work?

Beats me. That depends on Stephen Harper, whether his objective is to actually help the people in Afghanistan, and move the country forward in a non-partisan manner, or use the war as a political weapon, and destroy Dion. Like I don’t know the answer to that one. But I guess there’s hope.

Tuesday will start that process. I now have no idea where it will end.

But, this I do know. Every voice was heard spontaneously within this national Liberal caucus. To speak, one needed only raise a hand. In the Conservative caucus, advance permission to rise must be granted in advance by a subordinate caucus group. In this caucus, the leader is among the first to enter and the last to leave. In the Conservative caucus, Stephen Harper makes an entrance and MPs must stand. In this caucus, policy is formulated, changed, vetted by the representatives of the people. In the Harper caucus, elected people are told, often by PMO staff, what they will do, say, support and believe.

Finally, I know the MPs I spent Monday night with had, that day, received your words. I wish I could tell you more about the conversation. You’d be proud.

This is the flipside of that "strong leader" stuff that Harper has been pushing more and more recently. It seems like Harper has taken things a bit too far, and has been (rather unsuccessfully) trying to build a cult of personality around himself. Like most people without either the charisma or strength of will to attract these things on their own, however, it's become a mite comical, like with that silly "stand when he enters!" convention that mistakes a servant of the Crown with the monarch herself.

(Or, more likely, with the presidency that he devoutly wishes he possessed.)

It's an excellent entry, contrasting the consultative, deliberative style of the Liberal leader with the domineering prime minister. It highlights Harper's biggest weakness--that he doesn't listen to anybody, including the voters--and turns the "DION=WEAK!" meme around into a strength. You can tell it scores points just by looking at the comments threads: the conservatives keep on trying to haul out various shibboleths, but they shortly collapse under their own weight.

It's strong enough, in fact, that it's worthy of widespread linking by various Liberal bloggers. Certainly were it southern-focused it'd get some attention, even if it were just reprinting by Kos diarists.

But what gets attention from, say, Cherniak? The guy who runs Liblogs, the big ol' list of Liberal bloggers?

A stupid prank on Warren Kinsella by some idiot conservative blogger.

Indeed, a quick google blogsearch check turns up not a single link to the story. This will be the first.

(Then again, maybe you should just go read about the Archbishop's wild Sharia comments instead. Good roundup here.)

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