Saturday, September 29, 2007

Axial Tilt

Moderating language or not, Hillary probably doesn't really oppose going into Iran.

But that's not what this entry is about.

No, it's about that most divided of beasts, the Canadian Liberal.

(Yeah, yeah, another Canada post. If the LibDems actually become significant contenders in the UK, I'll pay more attention to them too, but what interests me about the Liberals is, once again, that they're not necessarily social democrats or bog-standard conservatives wearing a different mask.)

Anyway, nice entry from Jeff Jedras on the current problems with the party and its leader. It's starting to seem like the restive elements within the party are not merely Ignatieff and his followers, but the Quebec wing of the party as a whole. Sounds odd, considering Dion is himself a Quebecker that is far more comfortable in French than in English, but keep in mind one thing: that Quebeckers historically divide less along a "liberal vs. conservative" axis than a "nationalist vs. federalist" axis. Many of Ignatieff's supporters in the party were soft nationalists... they weren't about to advocate leaving Canada any time soon, but did want as decentralized a federation as possible. Jean LaPierre, the guy saying nasty things about Dion in the Canadian media a lot recently, is one of these guys. They supported Ignatieff partially because he was rather keen on the "Quebec is a nation" idea. That got him in no small amount of trouble, but certainly ensured their support. They really wanted him to win.

But he didn't win. He couldn't have won. Still can't, probably, thanks to all those nasty little people contradicting him on nasty little issues like the Iraq war and the usefulness of torture. He dominated Quebec, and it didn't help. Instead, they got Dion, a man they loathe, because he is an arch-federalist who was instrumental in passing the law that ensures that the hard nationalists can't use any more nonsensical weaselly referendum questions to sneak their way out of Canada. There won't be a winnable referendum any time soon, and they know it.

You can see why they wouldn't like him, then.

And--since Quebec politics is its own little world where your position on this federalist/nationalist axis carries far more weight than unimportant things like whether you like giving poor people medical care or blowing up oil-rich countries--the fact that Dion is actually a pretty good choice for leader is unimportant. The man is a race traitor, and has to go.

(This is not hyperbole. There were Conservative ads at the beginning of the year that called him a vendu, a french word that roughly means, yes, "race traitor". No english translations are available, oddly enough, though Andrew Coyne had a few things to say about it.)

This is where things got mixed up, then. Leave aside that current furor about one of his advisors saying that calls for more Quebeckers on his team is like calling for more Chinese-Canadians; even if the allegation were true, they're almost certainly milquetoast compared to what is said in other offices in Parliament. What is important is that they were brought to the fore, and that they were brought to the fore by by people from the party's Quebec wing. In fact, all the problems with Dion seem to revolve around complaints and issues with his Quebec wing.

So the thing that Jeff brought to the table, that my english-speaking carcass hadn't considered, is that this may not be an Ignatieff thing. Yes, they supported Ignatieff. Yes, they still probably support Ignatieff. Yes, Iggy's probably the beneficiary from all this. But that doesn't mean that this is his deal, or even necessarily what he wants. He's dumb about some things, but there's no way that he's dumb enough to think that dumping a leader this quickly is a good idea. I doubt many liberals think that dumping Dion is a good idea.

But, then, there's the question of the day. Is the Quebec wing of the Liberal party so angry at the concept of having a vendu at the helm, so immersed in this axis of national vs. federal, so uninterested in what Harper will do to the rest of the country if he gets his majority, that they're willing to deal permanent damage to their party and their country to remove Dion and install someone friendlier to them?

I don't know. I'm not one of them.

I'm just someone who thinks that liberalism is, and must be, more than a vehicle for empty nationalism. I'm someone who still thinks that the Canadian Liberal party has an opportunity to lead the way for honest-to-goodness liberalism in the world, including in America, where it's so deeply damaged right now. And I'm someone who agrees with Jeff when he says a situation like this:
Dion was elected as leader of the LPC by members across all of Canada, and I don’t think this is being driven by the grassroots. It’s a narrow group of people with their own agenda, although in senior positions of power within the party, driving this thing... not something that should be tolerated.

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