Mergers, coalitions, etc.
For several days now, I've been wondering whether I had anything to add to this conversation about Liberal-NDP co-operation, beyond what I babbled about on CBC's Power and Politics last Friday. The short version of my comments, by the way, is: bad idea; witness what happened when forays were made for Liberal-Green co-operation and since when did Liberals do well by rushing to the left? If anything, the past couple of decades have shown that the Liberals only come to power when veering right. I'm not one of those who sees the Liberals and NDP as natural allies.
But beyond that, here's why the whole discussion seems odd to me.
I think the political future belongs to those who understand the fragmented state of the world. I'm not sure it's possible to create any political party that unites people under a huge banner, or one big tent. This whole search for one big thing, in fact, seems kind of 1970s-ish.
The Conservatives have figured this out, and Chretien, to a lesser extent, also did during his time in office. Getting and keeping power now is a constant process of shaping coalitions around smaller issues -- coalitions that form and dissolve, and move from left to right to centre. You need a clever leader to do this, but you don't need a great leader or a messiah.
There's this incredible temptation, mainly by the boomer generation, to believe in this mythical power of "one big thing." But we're finding this out in my industry too -- one big thing doesn't exist anymore; the days of media giants and big, authoritative voices are over. The media universe is now an ever-shifting group of smaller, even individual voices. The military is facing the same issues -- the challenges of pitting one big army against the fragmented forces of the terrorists are well documented this century. This is a huge cultural shift everywhere.
So that's why I'm largely uninterested in this conversation about grand coalitions or mergers. I don't know if you can unite the voting public under any one big thing.
What's more, on a more pedestrian level, I'm convinced that this latest flurry of speculation is rooted, at least in part, in just plain mischief. Since I came to Ottawa more than 20 years ago, I've watched various factions of the Liberal party trying to undermine the faction in power. I even got a book out of it. It's kind of a well-worn routine now, though. Isn't it time for a new story line?