Friday, November 13, 2009

Stay positive my friends

I have recently been criticized by some other Liberal bloggers because they claim that I refuse to see the reality of the current situation of the Liberal Party and that my attitude is part of the problems that they are having. Although he was too polite to say it in so many words one blogger even implied that I may be deluded.

I have been called much worse and I take none of the criticisms personally.

However, I would like to explain my seeming indifference to the current situation the Liberals find themselves in and even my optimism as we look into the future.

First, everything in politics is transitory. It is ever changing and that is particularly true in between elections. So I never become too upset or too happy about what is happening during that period. Indeed, that holds true during elections. I wait until election night before I become either one.

I remember at the beginning of February 2004, every pundit in the country was stating that Paul Martin would sweep the country. There were even hints that he could take more than two seats in Alberta and sweep the Bloc out of Quebec. By the end of that Februrary every pundit in the country was questioning whether Paul Martin would be able to hang on to government.

Or a more recent example. At the beginning of June of this year many Liberals were saying Michael Ignatieff should force an election. The Liberals were leading the Conservatives and had been doing so for about six months so the time was right to strike. Of course, by the time the most probable election date rolled around that lead had evaporated.

The nature of politics is such that getting upset or ecstatic about what is happening in the moment is counter-productive and probably not good for your health. In addition, any political party that makes major decisions based on what is happening in the here and now generally does not enjoy long-term success.

That is why I generally put less importance on the the here and now of politics, preferring to look beyond it. It is too easy to get lost in the forest when you are looking at the trees.

Second, we will never know what Canadians will care about. The pundits try to tell us differently and they may even try to get Canadians to care about their pet projects and pet peeves but when all is said an done Canadians will choose for themselves. This also means that you can never really understand why one party will be in or out of favour at any given time. Therefore, giving a political party some advice to take this action or that based on what is happening now is a useless gesture and could actually do more harm than good.

Third, we do not have all of the information necessary to give good advice. We as bloggers and citizens have to rely on the media for our information. As has been pointed out many times before our media cares more about advancing a narrative than giving us any real information. I often find bloggers giving the Liberal Party all sorts of advice based on this incomplete information and I am left shaking my head, particularly since the Party and its paid operatives have access to information sources we could only dream about. Then there are those bloggers who give advice to the Party based on information and analysis by media types who are well known to be hostile to the Liberals.

The final point is completely political. That is, it is usually a bad idea to acknowledge to the world that things are tough for your Party. Certainly things could be going badly but that does not mean you need to admit that publicly. Many argue that admitting a problem is the first step towards solving it and that is true but admitting it publicly usually just complicates matters. That is why there are all sorts of organizations and programs that allow people to admit their problems anonymously. As much as we like to believe honesty is the best policy being honest at the wrong time or to the wrong people tends to make matters worse.

As well, the most successful political organizations are the ones that can exude a quiet self-confidence regardless of the situation. The most successful politicians in recent history have all had it. Reagan, Harris, Clinton, Thatcher, Chretien, Obama. I would even say that Stephen Harper has that trait. Those who did not have it tended to enjoy less or no success. Bush Sr, Dion, Joe Clark, McGuinty during his first go around, Eves, John Major, John Kerry and McCain. Remarkably Paul Martin had it as Finance Minister but lost it when he became PM.

This trait often manifests itself in the ability to spit in the eye of your political opponent even as you find yourself being politically wounded. Chretien was a master of it. There were some tough times during his administration but by all outward appearances he and his administration never showed their effects and often he would just become more defiant when things did go wrong.

Of course, there is always a danger that quiet self-confidence can morph into arrogance and hubris leading to a great fall. Mulroney and Harris come to mind and it does look like Stephen Harper may be straying into that danger zone. We will have to see how far he goes. Incidentally, the really successful ones are the ones who can strike a balance between self-confidence and humility. Chretien was a master at it as was Bill Clinton. Both probably would have won another election if they had stood for it.

I have seen the beginnings of a quiet self-confidence in the current Liberal leadership and it is the first time I have seen such in the Liberal leadership for half-a-decade. The Sudbury Declaration was a great example of such. Since that time the Party has gone on to ignore the minutae of daily politics and it seems to be pursuing a plan despite it. You can read my previous posts to see what I mean. That is good news and one of the reasons why I am optimistic for the future. They have not been perfect at it. I was steaming when I saw the statement by Mr. Ignatieff after the by-elections. They were by-elections that you had no chance of winning so he should have just ignored their results and let everybody else have their nice little circle jerk over them. Fortunately, his statements were ignored so no harm was done.

Politics is a funny business where you can be on top of the world one day and in the depths of despair the next, but only if you let it happen. I choose not to. I am well aware of the current political situation but I have seen politics from within a party apparatus and without so I know that the situation can change at any time and I also know that there is alot more going on behind the curtain than we as ordinary voters ever see.

I will go on being optimistic about the chances of finally getting rid of this government so feel free to call be deluded if you wish.

14 Comments:

Blogger Steve V said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 13, 2009 8:23 PM  
Blogger Steve V said...

Fair points.

I really must quibble with the almost arrogant dismissal that because people aren't on the inside, a lowly blogger, they're not privy to what's really happening, basing any advice on incomplete knowledge. You know what ottlib? I'll take an outside the Ottawa bubble perspective over an insider every time, because there is truth in the hinterlands. I know what time it is, I've studied and followed for over two decades and my observations are as valid as anyone. The BIGGEST problem with the Liberals is the esoteric network, that is detached from everyday experience. Stop lecturing, start listening, you might actually be on to something. It's constructive advice, not simply bashing for its own sake.

There's a father knows best mentality to what you say, probably as a result of your past "experience". I'll put my political instincts up against any "pro", anytime. There's plenty of good advice, party hacks don't have a monopoly, nor intellectual superiority to claim some greater strategic sense.

There's a lot of crap that I read, but there's also a lot of solid perspective, that people should consider, rather than this pat on the head, "don't worry" approach that you take. Just once, some acknowledgement, just one time. You have no credibility, when you torture every reality to fit into an eventual rainbow. What good is that?

I appreciate your perspective, often you make insightful comments. I just wish you felt the same in reverse, because I got game too ;)

Repeat after me. That by-election in Quebec is a seismic event for the Conservatives. As I predicted, the media narrative has declared the re-birth, even Hebert, it's a new dawn for the Cons in Quebec. You don't get to fluff that off, you accept it and react accordingly. You don't get to fluff off the media, it's the only way people get their information, for the most part, for the vast majority. The Cons get a boost, they just do, no harm in admitting the obvious.

I'm partisan, but I try to detach myself enough to recognize what time it is outside of the team head space.

Shake your head all you want, but I recall my "advice" during Outremont being bang on in the final analysis, while others were to busy wrapping themselves in the "big red machine" mirage. Forget the inside, get the hell outside, it was so freaking obvious to be maddening.

Anyways....

For me, it's not about staying positive, it's about staying real.

Cheers.

November 13, 2009 8:25 PM  
Blogger CanadianSense said...

Great Post.

We may not agree on the current state of affairs.

The Liberals may survive as the official opposition at the next general election.

People claiming the By-election is a clear marker are just spinning their narrative as always.

Some of us are looking at only official Polls since 2004 for the LPOC. The trend and direction has not been reversed.

Some of us think another 1-3% drop is realistic. I remember the Rat Pack, we might have that again in 2010.

November 13, 2009 8:56 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

I am not dismissing anybody or any opinion. I am aware of the situation but I am also aware that the situation will change, not might change, regardless of what the Liberal Party or any Party does.

As for the media, you state that I should get outside more then reference the ultimate insider, a political columnist.

Canadians do not care about what Ms. Hebert says about the by-elections. They will make their own judgements and I can virtually guarantee that they will surprise you, her and me when they do.

I do not take a "pat on the head" approach. I choose not to focus too closely on the political white noise that we get bombarded with on a daily basis. That applies as much when the Liberals appear to be doing well as when they appear to be doing poorly.

I find your comments and analysis of politics insightful and intelligent and your blog is on my list of daily must reads. As any good commentator though you sometimes leave me shaking my head in disagreement and sometimes I decide to voice that disagreement.

If I come off as arrogant or dismissive when I do I can assure you that it is not intentional.

As well, I do not usually comment as much when I agree with someone because those kinds of conversations get boring rather quickly.

In the final analysis the Liberal Party has spent the last 5 years reacting instead of acting. They have done it for three straight elections and most of the time in between, including the now infamous by-election in Outrement, and the results speak for themselves. If the Liberals are going to have any chance of changing their fortunes they are going to have to change that. Until they do they will continue to lose.

That means looking past the daily hurly-burly of politics, gutting out the down times without overreacting to them, developing a plan and sticking to it.

Of course, they also need to be flexible but they have to choose their spots and be certain that it is absolutely necessary. I do not think that is necessary at this time. Despite all of the white noise we have seen since the last election the relative positions of the two main protaganists have not really changed since last October. If the public polls were saying that the Conservatives were maintaining polling levels in the comfortable majority range and/or they were saying that Stephen Harper had achieved near god like approval ratings I would say a change in approach would be necessary, even vital.

That is not the case so there is very little reason for the Liberals to divert from a plan we began to see the beginnings of last June.

Then again that is just one man's opinion.

November 13, 2009 9:13 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Steve,

I noticed that Mr. Sense posted a comment before I posted my response to your comment.

That comment was directed towards you and not Mr. Sense.

November 13, 2009 9:16 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I take issue with your statement that it is generally bad to lament the problems with your party to the world.

How else do you hash out these problems and repair them?

The LPC has alot of skeletons, if these are not publicly exorcised, how do you expect to overcome them?

Canadian voters will not just simply take your opinion that all is well.

Besides, how does a party member from NFLD get on the same page with someone from BC, other than public discussion, generally via the Interweb?

Canadians with a center right bent had a long, painful and well publicised rebuilding period. The result was the CPC, and although far from perfect, they have offered Canadians what they seem to want.

The truth is that the Liberal Party needs to take stock of itself. It needs to decide (finally!) what it offers to Canada that is better and more "Canadian" than what we have.

I find it funny that you mention more than once that the LPC does not focus on the minutea of government business. Truth is that the LPC has become the Whining Bitching Party of Canada by trying to drum up the minor nonscandal of the day.

Such petty reactionary thinking, I believe, is revulsive to the average Canadian. You offer nothing but petty bickering. Puerile actions will get you nowhere.

We want to know where you stand, how you are different and how you will make my life as a citizen better. Full stop.

Sure, alot of Canadian may view the Prime Minister as a hard bastard, but I would guess that just as many respect that about him.

The CPC has definition and a pretty clear agenda. The Libs have none.

By and large, we are becoming comfortable with the Conservatives because, well, life isn't so bad in Canada under their government.

As well, at least they are offering up a smattering of a vision. The Libs are all over the map.

Take the time when the CPC attains their majority (and they will get one, at least) and rebuild from the grassroots up, and offer a viable alternative.

Until you do, you Libs are doomed. In fact I think your position in the OLO could be at risk.

At least the NDP stands for something...most of it pretty hairbrained, mind you.

November 13, 2009 10:33 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I take issue with your statement that it is generally bad to lament the problems with your party to the world.

How else do you hash out these problems and repair them?

The LPC has alot of skeletons, if these are not publicly exorcised, how do you expect to overcome them?

Canadian voters will not just simply take your opinion that all is well.

Besides, how does a party member from NFLD get on the same page with someone from BC, other than public discussion, generally via the Interweb?

Canadians with a center right bent had a long, painful and well publicised rebuilding period. The result was the CPC, and although far from perfect, they have offered Canadians what they seem to want.

The truth is that the Liberal Party needs to take stock of itself. It needs to decide (finally!) what it offers to Canada that is better and more "Canadian" than what we have.

I find it funny that you mention more than once that the LPC does not focus on the minutea of government business. Truth is that the LPC has become the Whining Bitching Party of Canada by trying to drum up the minor nonscandal of the day.

Such petty reactionary thinking, I believe, is revulsive to the average Canadian. You offer nothing but petty bickering. Puerile actions will get you nowhere.

We want to know where you stand, how you are different and how you will make my life as a citizen better. Full stop.

Sure, alot of Canadian may view the Prime Minister as a hard bastard, but I would guess that just as many respect that about him.

The CPC has definition and a pretty clear agenda. The Libs have none.

By and large, we are becoming comfortable with the Conservatives because, well, life isn't so bad in Canada under their government.

As well, at least they are offering up a smattering of a vision. The Libs are all over the map.

Take the time when the CPC attains their majority (and they will get one, at least) and rebuild from the grassroots up, and offer a viable alternative.

Until you do, you Libs are doomed. In fact I think your position in the OLO could be at risk.

At least the NDP stands for something...most of it pretty hairbrained, mind you.

November 13, 2009 10:41 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

Jim said,

"I find it funny that you mention more than once that the LPC does not focus on the minutea of government business."

I stated that the Liberal Party should not focus on the day-to-day political noise we hear. That is the polls and the opinions of columnists who write as much for pay checks as they do for expressing opinions.

They should and are keeping a close eye on the government and its actions and I would say they have finally began looking like a real Opposition should. They still have alot of work to do on that front but it is a vast improvement over what we have seen since January 2006.

"Truth is that the LPC has become the Whining Bitching Party of Canada by trying to drum up the minor nonscandal of the day."

Funny, they said the same thing about the Conservatives before 2006. Remember when the Conservatives went crazy over Mr. Dingwall's expense claim for a $2 pack of gum?

"Until you do, you Libs are doomed. In fact I think your position in the OLO could be at risk."

If I had a buck for every time I have heard that first statement I could retire to a nice tropical island, after I had purchased it.

As well, I do not work in the OLO. I used to work on The Hill but I left that job years ago.

November 13, 2009 11:19 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

"In the final analysis the Liberal Party has spent the last 5 years reacting instead of acting. They have done it for three straight elections and most of the time in between, including the now infamous by-election in Outrement, and the results speak for themselves. If the Liberals are going to have any chance of changing their fortunes they are going to have to change that. Until they do they will continue to lose.

That means looking past the daily hurly-burly of politics, gutting out the down times without overreacting to them, developing a plan and sticking to it."

Well said. I find the over the top reactions to every little thing to be a bit over the top.

November 14, 2009 1:28 AM  
Blogger penlan said...

"By and large, we are becoming comfortable with the Conservatives because, well, life isn't so bad in Canada under their government."

Tell that to all the Canadians who have lost their jobs. Tell that to all the immigrants who want to bring their families here. Tell that to the Canadians that got stranded in other countries & Harper et al wouldn't help them until there was a huge public/media outcry. Tell that to all those living in poverty trying to survive. There is so much more but I'll leave it at that.

November 14, 2009 4:50 AM  
Blogger Koby said...

The problem in nutshell is this. The Conservative party is party of larger conservative movement and very notion of liberal movement sounds well odd. Conservative party draws strength from the movement and movement in turn draws strength from having a party that reflects their values. There is no liberal movement in Canada and the Liberal party, especially under Ignatieff, has done nothing to foster one.

Without a core set of policy goals to work towards, it at little wonder why the Liberal party is purely reactive and dominated by short term thinking. Other than returning to power, the party has set itself no goals. This is marked contrast to Harper. Harper has long term vision and long term strategy for how to accomplish it.

As for Chretien's success, I know you admire Chretien and I take it you worked for the Liberals during his reign. However, the seas parted for him. The constitutional wars whipped out two major federal parties (NDP and PCs) for a decade and gave birth to two new parties (Reform and Bloc). The Liberals were the only established party left standing after the 1993 election. His majorities were based on taking more a 100 seats in Ontario. His election successes are no model for what faces the Liberals now.

November 14, 2009 5:57 AM  
Blogger Steve V said...

"That means looking past the daily hurly-burly of politics, gutting out the down times without overreacting to them, developing a plan and sticking to it."

I don't disagree with that. What I'm arguing for is a long term plan, as opposed to a presentation that is dominated by reactive politics. It's our braintrust that doesn't look past the "daily", it's like we lie in wait for the next misstep.

Here's a perfect example of the uneven presentation. Ignatieff delivered a supposed "major" speech on clean energy. It got virtually no coverage, which is another matter, but WE didn't have a concerted strategy to push the talking points. If Ignatieff delivers something substantive, then everybody should devote themselves to pushing that narrative for this particular week. MP's mentioning it at every turn, our questions in Parliament highlighting, pure focus on self promotion. That's what the Cons do, we passively hope somebody notices.


I do appreciate your perspective, so this disagreement here isn't a blanket rejection.

November 14, 2009 8:18 AM  
Blogger marie said...

Greta post ottlib. I can see myself in some of the cases you mention and for that I apologise. I will try to be a little more patient with the Liberals and even Harper's government. Keep up the great threads.Thanks and best regards,

Marie

November 14, 2009 4:49 PM  
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December 12, 2009 1:12 AM  

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