You wouldn’t think the victory of a Progressive Conservative government in Alberta, of all places, would be able to send the media into such a tizzy. A few months from now, most people in the prattling classes will have forgotten this incident ever happened, but it’s still worth marking the moment. The media uniformly predicted a victory for a hard-right Wildrose team supported by a corps of crack advisors sent out from the Harper team in Ottawa. They were wrong. And now, they are compounding their incompetence.
The pundits are offering no shortage of “explanations” for why they were wrong: vote-splitting, fear of change, strategic voting, undecided voters, Wildrose gaffes, and on and on. Some pundits are now even pretending that Wildrose wasn’t really Harper’s brainchild in the first place, and that actually he’s better off without them. Andrew Steele, an Ontario Liberal insider turned Globe & Mail pundit who probably needs to take a logical reasoning class as well as a math class, uses some funny math to conclude that “it’s not surprising that so many pundits were wrong” because changes in government in Alberta are extremely rare.
It’s gotten so bad that one former Harper speechwriter pulled a Jacques Parizeau and blamed immigrants for skewing the voting results. That man, Michael Taube, has promised to stop quoting polling firms, predicting election results, or doing what he calls “political cheerleading.” We’ll see how long it takes him to break his promise.
Perhaps the most significant symbol of the growing incompetence of our political elites, however, can be found just to the west, in British Columbia. Over there, the Harperites’ chosen ally is Liberal premier Christy Clark, a vacuous imbecile of a leader who is at least as corrupt as the Alberta PCs and who has put the Harperites in a bizarre position, waging an all-or-nothing battle to save the BC Liberal Party from the rising BC Conservative Party. The federal Conservatives are saving the provincial Liberals from the provincial Conservatives. All this in the service of a lady whom Preston Manning has preposterously gifted with the asinine honorific “the Iron Snowbird.”
Exactly why the Harper team hitched their wagon to the Liberal Clark, I’m not sure. I can only assume it’s because last year it looked like the NDP were poised to beat the Liberals, and if there’s anything the Harperites hate more than the Liberals, it’s the commie varmints in the NDP. Clark’s advisory team therefore includes Harper associates like Gwyn Morgan, Ken Boessenkool, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Chuck Strahl, John Reynolds, Dimitri Pantazopolous, and Sarah McIntyre, among others.
Last week, when the Liberals lost a pair of embarrassing by-elections to the NDP, all the talk among the punditry was about the need to Unite The Right (Again). Clark took to the airwaves bleating about how she would be leading a “Free Enterprise Coalition” into the next election. Boessenkool was told to approach the Conservatives and invite them back into the fold in exchange for changing the name of the Liberals, the assumption being that the residents of B.C. were so appallingly stupid that by next spring they’d have forgotten the “new” party used to be the Liberals. According to the general consensus of the punditry, centre and right, this was a Good Thing (at least for Clark). The smart strategy was to bring in the Conservatives and club the socialists.
This week, in response to another, much more unexpected election result in Alberta, the advice has flipped. Today the Globe & Mail announced, just as approvingly as they covered the “Unite The Right” and “Free Enterprise Coalition” messages last week, that Clark is Moving Left and will now be attacking the BC Conservatives rather than trying to ally with them. That’s because, the sage pundits tell us, the Alberta PCs showed that you can head off a threat from the right by moving into the centre.
The best part about the advice being given to Clark, incidentally, is that it doesn’t require any actual policies one way or the other. Last week, when Clark was building the new “Free Enterprise Coalition,” she didn’t announce any policy changes that would actually give substance to this flashy rherotic. This week, as she Moves Left, she’s not announcing any new policies to support that change, either.
You see, in the new Canadian politics, all you have to do is annouce your position on the Sliding Scale of Political Ideology™, and the voters will follow like obedient little lambs. So Clark wanders back and forth along the political spectrum in search of a genuine constituency.
Here’s the lesson the BC Liberals should be drawing from Redford: she was consistent. The fact that a former Mulroney aide is now being hailed as a “centrist” and “Red Tory” is mainly only evidence of how far the supposed political “centre” has moved in the last 20 years. But setting that to one side for the moment, Redford ran for the leadership of the Alberta PCs as a Red Tory. She dropped the writ as a Red Tory. When Wildrose captured the polls and won the hearts of the punditry, Redford bucked the universal consensus of said punditry and stayed a Red Tory.
This isn’t a lesson that Clark can “learn” from Redford, because Clark has no consistent position — popular or otherwise — to hold fast to. Indeed, by some time next week, I predict we will see Clark adopt a new position: that she is Moving to the Centre in order to protect we frail, weak British Columbians from the wolves on the right and the monsters on the left. And then the media will nod along sagely and agree that, yes, the best message to send out to voters is that strong stable centrist leadership will protect them from the depredations of the hard right and the tax-and-spend irresponsibility of the hard left.
And what policies define the centre — or the left — or the right? No one needs to say. That’s how the Politics of Geometry works, you see.Tweet