Thursday, September 29, 2011

Liberal NDP Merger Doesn’t Add Up

Certain people in this country have a poor understanding of political mathematics.

I am talking about all those “progressives” out there who keep trumpeting the idea of a merger between the Liberals and NDP.

These people seem to think a new “Liberal - New Democratic Party” would both unite the Canadian left and topple the Harper regime in the next federal election.

As left-wing columnist Frances Russell put it, “The Liberals and New Democrats together could create a game-changing foe for the Conservatives.”

Now on the surface such an argument does make sense.

After all, the combined vote totals of the NDP and Liberals in the last federal election surpassed the Conservative vote total.

However this is where political math comes in.

In political math two plus two does not always equal four; sometimes it actually equals three.

In other words, if the NDP and Liberals were to join forces there is no guarantee their respective support bases would come along for the ride.

In fact, it’s likely a merger would alienate many Liberals and New Democrats, causing a substantial number of them to join the Conservatives.

Why is this?

Well for one thing, the Liberals and NDP represent two distinct and separate political cultures.

Yes, broadly speaking both parties are on the left side of the political spectrum, but ideology still divides them.

The NDP, for instance, is an ideologically-oriented party that stresses “class warfare” and “democratic socialism.” It also has close connections to the union movement.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are less dogmatic about their “left wing” ideals and more business-friendly.

Indeed, when it’s necessary Liberals will happily embrace fiscally conservative policies as did former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who managed to balance the federal budget.

And this is not surprising because there exists within the Liberal Party a large contingent of so called “Blue Liberals” who are socially liberal but who still believe in the profit-motive.

Such Blue Liberals would probably be more comfortable in the Conservative Party than in a party where meetings were held in union halls and where everybody called each other “brother and sister.”

Likewise, there would also be many New Democrats unhappy to see a merger take place with Liberals.

This is especially true for the more populist brand of New Democrats who view the Liberals as corrupt pawns of corporate Canada.

They might not stick around in a new Liberal/NDP amalgam.

In fact, many populist-style NDPers in Western Canada actually voted for the old Reform Party, so it’s not too much of a stretch to think they could switch allegiances to the Conservatives.

And there’s another variable merger proponents should consider: Prime Minister Stephen Harper would absolutely welcome and cheer on a union between his two political enemies.

It’s true.

Back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition he explained to me he would like to see Canada evolve into a two party system, like they have in the United States, a system that pitted a right wing party against a left wing  party.

Harper’s view was that if you gave voters such a stark ideological choice, the conservatives would always have the advantage.

This is why, for instance, he has worked hard to eliminate the Liberal Party as a political force in Canada.

Of course, if the Liberals were to voluntarily become assimilated into the NDP socialist collective, well that would work just as well for his purposes.

In short, the correct mathematical equation representing a merger between Liberals and Conservatives would look like this:

Liberals + NDP = Happy Stephen Harper.


(This originally appeared in the Ottawa Hill Times.)

1 comment:

BBS said...

Good article from the Globe that helps back up your merger math: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/meet-the-new-ndp-left-leaning-liberals-and-hardcore-progressives/article2184786/