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My take on the Dion leadership question, and the LPC.

It’s been quite a reaction today amongst Liberal bloggers. Most of them are reacting in fury at Joe Volpe going on CTV – and of all places Mike Duffy’s show – and basically saying Dion should leave. I’ll say this for Joe Volpe – despite my distaste for him being as great as anyone else who has commented today, at least he had the gumption to come out and say what he felt publicly.

The backstabbing and murmurs from more “anonymous Liberals” about trying to get Dion to quit or to force him out is appalling and cowardly, and it has spurred quite a netroots reaction amongst Liberal rank and file members and Liberal bloggers coming out in support of Dion.  To be sure, there are Liberal bloggers wanting him to resign too, but so far those coming out in support of Dion has been bigger. (Steve has some of the list here at the bottom of his blogpost of those Liberal bloggers supporting Dion).

My particular opinion on this whole matter is this; I think Dion should be allowed to make his decision on his own terms either way.  Cut it out with the Mutiny on the Bounty crap. Part of the reason we’re in this position we are in is that certain members of the party refused to accept a grassroots/rank and file members decision on who the leader should be in December 2006, and Dion has been dealing with a divided caucus and less then loyal foot soldiers who were former supporters of his rivals. It has made the LPC look bad in the past 2 years in the public’s eyes, and all of this “anonymous Liberals want to force Dion out” crap merely reinforces it (remember the 1960’s – 1980’s Progressive Conservative party?).

The other thing is stop blaming Dion and the Green Shift as the only reasons for the election defeat. He does have to bear and shoulder some responsibility for this, as do his staff and his strategists, but he’s not the full reason. You can read a couple of very excellent pieces by Robert Silver here and here to get my particular opinion on things, as he says it more eloquently then I what I feel are the cause of the problems as well as the solutions:

Entering into another costly, divisive leadership campaign is the absolute last thing the Liberal Party needs or can afford right now. Moreover, it will help ensure that the party’s needed reforms and renewal do not happen. The Liberal Party is caught in a vicious cycle: we do a terrible job engaging our members and reaching out to new members; this lack of engagement ensures that we cannot raise significant money under the current fundraising rules; this lack of funds makes it impossible for us to build a modern political machine that allows us to be competitive across this country and to effectively communicate our message to Canadians; which makes it even more difficult to reach out to existing and new members and voters. And on it goes.

And at his blog entry:

Just as GM now deserves what is happening to it because it refused to evolve and innovate, the Liberal Party of Canada deserves what is happening to it unless it realizes its real problems go way deeper than a face on a poster.

I will add this part. There is no magic elixir out there in the form of another leader that is going to magically make everyone want to vote Liberal again. We have organizational and messaging problems, and the party needs to still be reformed organizationally and with more emphasis on the grassroots and ENGAGING the grassroots and trying to get them involved.

For example, here’s a novel idea; instead of throwing those 1000$ a plate dinner fund raisers all the time that only the elites can afford to go to, how about a whole bunch of 10$ to 20$ BBQ’s that normal regular LPC members can, you know, actually afford? The Victory Fund is fine, but lots of people hate getting bugged in email and with phone calls. Throw those BBQ’s with high profile people, and get your funds that way. Furthermore, hold them not just in ridings we are strong in, but hold them in ridings where we want to win them back, or where we’ve traditionally have had no presence but want to build up the local riding infrastructure. We invited Howard Dean to the LPC Convention (in 2006), but we’ve done NOTHING to come anywhere close to implementing a “50 state strategy” – or trying to compete and win in every strategy. We need a 10 province strategy, or 308 ridings strategy implemented. Barack Obama embraced Deans efforts, and look what he’s doing competing in Republican states that haven’t gone Democratic in years. We need the same effort and plan up here. We’ve had a lot of lip service about that, but little as been done.

I’ll say again; we’re papering over the structural and organizational faults (such as lack again of fund raising within our own party) by thinking a new leader – even one with “star” potential – will come along and make all those problems go away, It is short-sighted and will get us no closer to getting re-elected to government.

In conclusion, I support Dion in whatever decision he makes. (Quite honestly, I don’t know why he’d WANT to remain leader with this bunch that has been throwing knives at his back). The Liberal Party backroom honchos are fooling themselves however, in thinking that all will be well again if Dion quits or is forced out. They have to engage the grassroots of the party and involve them more. However, the grassroots/netroots of the LPC need to let the head honchos/back room boys know that we’re not going to put up with this stagnation of reform.

UPDATE: For an excellent glossary of what an “anonymous Liberal” is, go check out CalgaryGrit’s definitions.

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