Thursday, May 5, 2011

A STRANGE PUZZLING ELECTION - More questions than answers

         As we expected, the Conservatives won with a big majority.

         Division of the vote on the Left between Liberals and the NDP let Conservatives walk up the middle.

          The election left Big Losers and Big Winners.

The Big Losers

The Liberals: their lowest percentage of the popular vote in history. Leader Ignatieff, defeated in his own riding, fell on his sword and quit politics. What will now become of the beleaguered, once mighty, Liberal Party? It leaves the impression of a wounded animal crawling off to die..

            Some pundits suggest a fusion of the Liberal Party and the NDP to create a unified party of the Left (as the Right did years ago with fusion / hostile takeover of the "Red Tory" Progressive Conservatives by the neoconservative Reform - Alliance). Other, more pragmatic voices claim that a fusion would destroy the former: the Liberal right wing - business - would rush to the Conservatives, fleeing the socialist hordes. The future of the traditional party of the center is, at best, uncertain..

The Bloc Québécois: A truly monumental defeat, giving new meaning to the saying "going down in flames". No one saw leader Gilles Duceppes' loss of his home riding: he, like Ignatieff, bows out, leaving the political scene in defeat. What will happen to the separatist movement in Québec? Will it die? No one can say..

The Big Winners:

Finally! Elizabeth May, head of the Green Party, wins a sole seat. Will she be able to leverage her win into a national paradigm shift on environmental issues? Good luck, Elizabeth!

Jack Layton's Orange Wave: Why did the NDP spike so quickly the last two weeks of the campaign? Why did the wave begin and crest so high in Québec, formerly closed to NDP wooing because of the Province's "made-in-Québec" brand of social democracy? Why did the Orange Wave spread to other parts of the country? Was the wave just another example of "social mimicry", the recent democracy movements in the Middle East serving as role-models? If so, this would suggest there is an underground current of fear, frustration, rage and desire for change waiting to be tapped by emerging social / political movements..

           The election raises more questions than it answered, revealing fracture lines of fear and distrust, revealing also an alien political landscape for which we possess no maps..

            For the first time in history the Reds have been denied the role of Official Opposition by Jack's neophyte Orange team. A first! - but what does it really mean for the long run? Does the Liberal rout indicate a fundamental shift in our political perspective: a potentially creative polarization of Canadian politics between a neoconservative Right and a "Social Democratic", possibly green, Left? Or did people vote for Jack merely in protest? Only time will tell if the Orange Wave was a fluke created by circumstances or a real paradigm shift..

            Just as puzzling is the role Québec now finds itself in: undefined! Not only did the Orange Wave begin there but more than half of Layton's team hail from la belle province - no one, but no one, saw this coming. To be effective the Orange team will need to reach across the linguistic divide and develop a common political vision and strategy. This alone could - potentially - usher in a new era of Canadian federal politics. Decades ago, in their heyday, the centrist Liberals played this bridging role. Now the role of bridge builder falls to a party of the Left. How will this reconfigured political map play out in the decades of environmental / ecological turmoil ahead? One can only speculate!

            One thing seems certain though: the Bloquistes, the Liberals and the NDP itself will have a long stretch ahead to discover their new roles, formulate new goals and try out new strategies in this political Wonderland we have suddenly fallen into. They will all have their work cut out for them too: with their strong majority, the Harperites will feel their hand free to do pretty much as they see fit..

            One thing I think we can count on: the unexpected.

Attendre l'inattendu! / expect the unexpected!

Politics is the art of the possible

Politics is the realm where Murphy's Laws have their fullest, most complete and most diversified expression


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