Thursday, May 15, 2008

Herle sees rationality where others see luck

Danistan won't do it, so it falls to me. David Herle has quite the piece in the Toronto Star today. Excerpted from his May piece in Policy Options, Herle lays out a strategy by which Stephane Dion can win the next election. It's a rather simple prescription: first, point out that the Conservatives are far to the right of most Canadians; second, highlight Dion's strength as a different type of leader; third, play up the environment.

I want to leave aside discussion of whether these presumptions are even correct. I suspect at least one of them is wrong, but I've never been asked to run a campaign, so what do I know. I do want to highlight a rather ridiculous paragraph halfway through the article. In justifying his claim that Dion should emphasize his different qualities, Herle argues that Dion won the party leadership because:

Liberals wanted, and sensed that Canadians wanted, something different. They sensed that politics in Canada was ready for a new national challenge, something that transcended the machinations of Ottawa politics. In addition to his passion for the environment, Liberals saw in Dion a man of character and an anti-politician as an antidote to the current mode of our politics. After the sponsorship affair, Canadians needed to believe that the Liberal party was about purpose, not jockeying for partisan advantage.

This is ridiculous. This suggests that delegates calculated, once confronted with the binary choice between Dion and Ignatieff, that Dion was somehow the best man for the job all along. He was a new kind of leader and just what the country ordered. If delegates were so rational at the time, then why did less than one-in-five plump for him in the first place? It is simply not true that delegates selected Dion because he was the best choice of all candidates. No, they selected him because he lucked onto a final ballot in which his opponent was very controversial and far outside the mainstream of his party on three key issues: Quebec, fiscal imbalance, and Afghanistan.

I've written in the past of my admiration for Dion and it abides. But admiration shouldn't ignore the facts. Make no mistake: David Herle is very smart. He is probably one of the sharpest political minds in Canada. But I am left to wonder whether reading rationality and brilliance into luck hasn't impaired his judgment, now and in the past.

1 comment:

Ballzov said...

Herle = trying to give Dion the Obama thing, post hoc. Rather lamely.