Francis Barlow’s illustration to “The Bat, The Birds and the Beasts”, by Aesop.
Yesterday I blogged about how there’s talk of a Liberal/NDP merger. Now someone else has weighed in on the same…with a smack-my-forehead silly suggestion as to who should lead this theoretical new party:
Curiously, the person best qualified to fill Jack Layton’s shoes is not a New Democrat.
Rather, he is Bob Rae, the interim leader of the federal Liberal Party.
These days, not all New Democrats are fond of Rae. He did warm their hearts when he formed the first-ever NDP government in Ontario 21 years ago. But in 2000, he publicly and somewhat testily broke with his party before, eventually, joining the enemy Liberals.
I think I’ll stop blockquoting there; it only gets more wretched.
Can we really take this seriously about how much Rae had in common with Layton? For instance: Bob Rae, “a gifted orator”? I can’t remember a single thing he said that was striking enough to be worth repeating; it all rang curiously colorless and hollow. In fact, I can’t remember anything he said offhand, at all. He uttered it all with so little true conviction that it made no impression on me. That never happened with Jack Layton!
And it lists all kinds of other very tenuous “links” between the two, including the wacky notion that both “pragmatically” tried to turn their respective parties to the right — a “pragmatic” move that backfired disastrously for both, if I recall correctly. Turning right and going “Oh-oh-oh, me too!” is not the way to win votes for a leftist party; it’s just another way of saying to your real constituency: “Don’t vote for me, either”. Who wants a lite version of what they’re supposedly voting against? Give us something to vote for, not less of something to vote against!
The Liberals’ electoral failure this past spring speaks for itself. They went for “me too”, and got “nope, not me”. Bob Rae had his chance when there was talk of a coalition. He could have built bridges back to his old party and sought common ground, but he reneged and stayed with the “new”, rightardly, not-so-liberal Liberals. He is yesterday’s (failed) leader precisely because of that right turn, and that is how voters will forever remember him.
Jack Layton’s worst moments came in similar fashion. The New Democratic rank and file recently refused to strike the words “democratic socialism” from the party charter, among other things, which is a direct slap in the face to the idea of a right turn being “pragmatic”!
And we uncarded voters also weren’t happy with Jack Layton’s failure to whip the vote over the preservation of the long-gun registry. I distinctly recall wank-listing him over that, with a heavy heart then and now. But I don’t regret speaking that piece of my mind. The Montréal Massacre still matters to me, and I was shocked that Jack Layton, who after all hails from Montréal AND spearheaded the White Ribbon campaign against violence, could be willing even for a nanosecond to sell out his real, progressive constituency for a few piddling votes he’d never get, from those who think the New Democrats are all fucking commies anyway!
Jack Layton is with us no more, and that’s a damn shame, but it won’t blind me to his mistakes, and it shouldn’t stop the rest of us from learning from them. When he turned right, he lost us. When he turned left again, he got us all back, with interest. Why won’t Tom Walkom acknowledge that?
Bob Rae is, like the Bat in the Aesop fable, neither bird nor beast. But since he has made his bed with the Libs (a better fit for him, IMO; less stigma to selling out over there), the thing for him to do is lie in it. That party has done itself in with right turns and corruption and a lack of democracy from within. And if it tries to take over the NDP, they’ll all lose my vote, and those of other disgruntled progressives, too. No sense going on enabling this failed “turn right, turn right” political machinery any longer.
Or, to quote a wonderful passage from Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird:
My Al-Anon friend told me about the frazzled, defeated wife of an alcoholic man who kept passing out on the front lawn in the middle of the night. The wife kept dragging him in before dawn so that the neighbors wouldn’t see him, until finally an old black woman from the South came up to her one day after a meeting and said, “Honey? Leave him lay where Jesus flang him.”
I gave up on this merger after the last election, when it became obvious that there was going to be no change in the usual arrogant drunk-husband pattern of the Liberals.
So, sorry, Mr. Walkom, but you crapped out an awfully lazy-minded column there. Bob Rae isn’t the next Jack Layton. Nor is he the potential savior of the theoretical Lib-Dem merger party (which will probably go nowhere, just like the half-assed attempt at a Lib-Dem-Bloc coalition). He’s the sad little man who, in real life, ended up selling out to corporatism…and giving us Ontarians ten dreary years of Mike Harris, Ernie Eves, and a whole slew of other grotty SupposiTories who, despite intense scandal, only fell up and are now sitting in Harpo’s cabinet. And after that, the déluge: weak-tea reformism à la Dalton McWimpy. (Who is a much more apt person to compare Bob Rae to, BTW.)
That is Bob Rae’s true legacy. An inspiring progressive leader he most certainly is not.
And I prefer to “leave him lay where Jesus flang him”.