The Centre for Strategic Centrism


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Downright Embarassing

I don’t believe in Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny. Or the Tooth Fairy. That is to say that while I am now and forever will be an idealist, I am not naive. I understand that politics isn’t hopscotch. It’s not a game for children or those with weak stomachs. And it’s not just that I think that politics should be about more than the dirt-flinging and name-calling that dominates modern politics. It’s that I feel like campaigning and politics in general must be about more than that. It’s about more than winning. Now it’s easy to say that thinking like that is the reason that I’ve lost so many of the campaigns I’ve worked with. The truth is that most of the candidates that I’ve worked for never had a real chance at winning to begin with, which makes it easier to be noble. It’s easy to be noble when it’s not a close race and you know you’re going to lose. Fair enough. But I have worked on tough, close campaigns. And outside of a single act of political pettiness (registering my opponent’s domain names before he had a chance to do it, himself) when I was young and stupid, I’ve never done anything that I can’t be proud of.

The Race For ’08

I’m not going to say that the ’08 race has been dirtier than previous races. At least not yet. It’s usually the last few days when the worst usually comes out. Harold Ford, Jr. was subjected to a disgusting barrage of racially-charged attacks two years ago. John McCain (not the John McCain that’s the GOP nominee but the John McCain that ran for President 8 years ago) was, of course, subjected to a similarly nasty round of attacks in the primaries. We can only hope that this doesn’t match those previous levels, though I’m worried that it might. And the treatment of war-hero-turned-politician Max Cleland is among the most disgraceful acts I can recall in modern politics.

But as the races get tighter and incumbents fear losing their jobs, the tarring and feathering will continue. Today it’s the previously respectable Senator Elizabeth Dole from North Carolina. With a very real chance that she might lose her previously safe seat in the Senate, her campaign has resorted to trying to imply that her opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan, does not believe in god in an attempt to rally religious voters. The ad is reminiscent of the Cleland attacks, which questioned the patriotism of a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam. 

While calling into question a person’s religious beliefs has no place in politics to begin with, it is something of an absurd attack considering that Hagan was a Sunday school teacher.

Coleman’s Crap

And of course lawsuit-happy Coleman is at it again with another lawsuit stunt. Now, I’m especially optimistic that Coleman will lose because of the promise I see in Al Franken. I know that many will balk at the suggestion that a Saturday Night Live alumnus might make a promising Senator. But for anyone with questions, I’d suggest that they watch this video, which I think appropriately encapsulates the honest, common-sense approach that a Senator Franken might bring to Washington.

Getting to the Point

I guess it’s time to get to the point, so here it is… People want more. They deserve better. When you win by getting neck-deep in mud, you’ll always be remembered as a candidate willing to do anything to win. People like Chambliss will never be taken seriously. He might have won. But it will always be tainted. I don’t want to sound like a boy scout here. But every time someone wins that way, people lose a little more faith in the system. As someone who believes in the power of politics to change lives, I think that’s a price too high to pay.

UPDATE: There’s new suggestions that the GOP is darkening photos of a Democratic candidate of East Indian descent from Minnesota.


Filed under: Damn Yankees

The Myth of Obama’s Alleged Socialism

Obama’s a Marxist. He’s a dirty pinko commie. He has a hammer and sickle tattooed on his right butt cheek. It’s all true. It must be! After all, I heard it from Sarah Palin and conservative talk radio (well, maybe not the tattoo part). I don’t know what is more frustrating – the intentional and incorrigible ignorance of the McCain campaign or the fact that the de facto heads of the Republican campaign are an ignorant theo-conservative in Sarah Palin and a man who is comfortable being referred to as Joe the Plumber (is it that Sarah Palin can’t pronounce his name?).

The far right is now firmly in charge of the Grand Old Party. It’s sad to think, but it’s true. And they’re new favorite line is that Obama is a socialist. He wants to redistribute their wealth through taxes! The horror! Well I’m sorry to have to be the one to raise this point, but the fact is that taxes are a redistribution of wealth. People with more money pay more taxes and typically use fewer government services. That’s what they’re there for. We have a progressive tax system in the U.S. and in Canada (to the chagrin of many conservatives). The people with the ability to pay more are expected to do so. It’s not socialism and it’s not communism. It’s communalism. 

As I’ve mentioned, I was once a conservative. More accurately, I was a Tory, which is a unique doctrine often lumped in with conservatism. But once upon a time when I was a conservative, it was in no small part a product of the movement’s communalist view. Sir Edmund Burke – one of the great figures of traditional conservative thought – was an advocate for social responsibility. He believed that those of the aristocracy had a responsibility to those of meager means. He stressed that the manifestation and specifics of that responsibility were to be left to the aristocrats to determine, but the responsibility was nevertheless made clear.

The Grand Old Party is no more. In place of the responsible conservatism once advocated by Republicans of old has been supplanted by a coalition of neo-conservatives, theo-conservatives and ordinary schmucks like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin who are not only ignorant but more infuriatingly are proud of their ignorance. That Joe the Plumber is now one of the featured headliners for the GOP says more about the state of the GOP than anything else I’ve seen.

Joe the Plumber was interviewed by FOX News’ Sheppard Smith regarding his expressed views that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel. When a FOX News reporter feels the need to defend Barack Obama, you know someone’s gone too far. The most frustrating thing about it all is that when asked what the basis of his view was, he conceded that he did not know either McCain or Obama’s policies regarding Israel. Of course that kind of information would only slow him down, so why bother, right? My favorite quote in the exchange is this: when asked what the basis was for his position, he suggested that he was encouraging people to go out and do the research and find out why they  would think that he said what he said. It’s all very sad, really.

UPDATE: Apparently ol’ Joe’s a no-show.

Filed under: Damn Yankees

Who Should We Be Now?

There are a lot of things that I wish for. I wish I was taller. I wish that my singing didn’t make the eardrums of the people around me begin to bleed. I wish I was a real boy (wait… that one was Pinocchio). And I wish that I was technically proficient enough that I could have Men At Work’s Who Can It Be Now playing as intro music when people read this blog entry. But I digress…

A great many people have invested a great deal of time in consternation and hand-wringing about the future of the Liberal Party of Canada. Where should we go from here? Shift to the right, they say. Merge the left, others cry out. What they all have in common is that all these commenters are far smarter than me (or at least they all think that they’re far smarter than me) and that the shrillness of their cry for change betrays the fear in their hearts. So where should we go from here? Who should we listen to? Well, to quote the hilarious (and untimely departed) Richard Jeni, lucky for you I’m not busy during the day and I’ve been working on it.

I want to preface my advice here with the admission that I once stood dragging knuckle to dragging knuckle with the Conservatives in opposing the Liberal Party. I’m not saying that with any sort of pride or boastfulness. But having spent a number of years as a charter member of the vast right wing conspiracy, I know a little something about the success of the Big Liberal Machine of days past. After all, it ran right over me. And do you want to know what it was that most annoyed Conservatives and New Democrats alike about the Liberals? It was the Liberal ability to reach left and right as the need arose. It drove them crazy! They decried it as unprincipled populism but really, they were just upset with the ease with which the Liberal Party did it and the success that they had as a result.

Now let me be clear about something: Stephen Harper is not a leader. He’s not. Sure, he’s leading a party but he’s following the hoards. Leadership means taking potentially unpopular actions and convincing the people to follow you. He has done no heavy lifting. For all of the volumes that have and will continue to be written about the Stephane Dion experiment, I think it should be recognized that he introduced policy that he felt was needed and worked to make people understand why it was important. With that said, one of the failures of the Liberal Party was that they sold the Green Shift as environmental policy rather than economic policy. And the problem with that is that the people who needed to be sold most on the Green Shift were those who were concerned about it as economic policy. I refuse to concede that a carbon tax in the form of a Green Shift is bad politics, even in a struggling economy. But it needed to be sold as a tax cut, as sound economic policy, and we needed to have the confidence of the people that we knew what we were doing.

It is somewhat over-simplistic to suggest that Canadians are by nature liberal. I think Canadians are predominantly conservative (in that they favor incremental change, modesty and cautiousness). We are a socially liberal country, but we resist radical change of any kind. We are the tortoise, not the hare. As Bill Davis so famously said once upon a time, bland works. Canadians want to know that they are moving forward, but with the confidence that it is being managed thoughtfully and responsibly. 

The success of the Liberal Party of Canada is its ability to stand just to the right of centre on fiscal policy and just to the left of centre on social policy. That has been the secret of our success and that is the key to kicking the cowboys out of power.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

Do the Shuffle

So Harp shuffled the deck today. To some extent the big news is that – contrary to Conservative rumors – Irwin Cotler didn’t cross the floor. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given that he said he wasn’t crossing. The man has far too much integrity to walk across the floor only days after being elected by his constituents. It should come as no surprise that the Conservatives hoped to welcome him into their ranks. After all, the man is brilliant, the Conservatives continue to be shut out of Montreal and the party has shown no signs of letting up in their attempts to woo the Jewish vote. The key question, though, is whether Harp gives his Cabinet any slack or continues to throttle them. 

A few thoughts:

  1. Jason Kenney in Citizenship and Immigration. The promotion from junior is not a surprise. It scares the crap out of me since the government has not been at all secretive about the fact that his job is too woo immigrants for the party and I am troubled by just how blatant they are about politicizing immigration.
  2. Lunn’s out. Moore’s in. This is a smart move and one I’m actually happy to see. Lunn’s going to have his hands full with the fallout from election returns and the allegations of violating election law. Moore should have been in cabinet from day one. He’s smart. He’s moderate. He’s young. He’s decent. That’s more than you can say about most people in the House from any party. He’s a winner with a huge future ahead of himself.
  3. Diane Ablonscy continues to be shafted by Harp.
  4. Gordon O’Connor should retire.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

My Triumphant Return to the Blogosphere

My absence from the Liberal blogosphere has been a mere 582 days, seventeen hours, thirty-eight minutes and eighteen seconds. But whose counting. Though it may all be a figment of my imagination, I feel my absence has been felt and missed. After much consternation and soul-searching, I have decided to return, bringing with me the constant sarcasm, common-sense and occasional vitriol that were the hallmarks of my first stint on the series of tubes that make up the internet.

For those of you who do not know (or cannot remember) me, my name is Zack Ziegler. I am a born-again Liberal and Democrat. In a previous life, I was the opposite. In the old days (when it meant something different than being part of a coalition of the religious right and the blatantly wrong) I was a Progressive Conservative and a George H.W. Bush Republican. About four years ago I saw the writing on the wall (or more to the point, I saw the people in my party writing John 3:16 and hanging Confederate flags on the wall) and realized that I was getting more (or decidedly less) than what I had signed up for.

Nevertheless, I am now and forever will be a Liberal and look forward to bringing some fight back to the Liberal blogosphere.

Filed under: Housekeeping