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Requiem for a political party
By Jackson Murphy
Last week Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day almost did what polls, commentators, and the dirty baker's dozen dissidents had been telling him since April. Day finally has requested that the party, barely a year after their first leadership race, will race again but he did not resign.
The Alliance is oblivious to what Day's laughable leadership is doing to the party. The Party is a modern day Charlie Brown that continues trying to kick the football, but you just know that Lucy, read Day, is going to pull it out of the way.
The problem for the party, or what's left of it, is that Day may be the only person capable of winning the leadership. It seems that as membership in the party has fallen from its high of 250,000 to 118,000 that only his loyal supporters remain-good grief Charlie Brown!
The leadership race could be as far away as July 2002. Instead of resigning immediately Day continues as leader until 90-days before the leadership race.
Other problems have become apparent too. The problems of Day's leadership
compounded by the uncertainty of reconciliation have resulted in economic
problems. The Alliance financial support has dried up as donations have
all but stopped.
Westerners have been flirting with Reform, then its sequel the Alliance, for over 12 years. They are tired of losing-or maybe just gluttons for punishment. Unlike the Conservatives of England who after 2 straight electoral defeats in 1997 and 2001 are already on the move to change gears and appeal to a wider audience, because it is just as NBC's The Weakest Link says, "it's votes that count".
The real debate must be more than Day's leadership; it must be about the very foundation of the party, the movement, and its future. There must be a realization by the Alliance faithful that this experiment has failed miserably.
A comparable example of failure is the 1912 US presidential election. Led by former President Theodore Roosevelt, who broke with the Republican party, The Bull Moose Party came in second but split the vote with the Republicans ensuring a Democratic victory. Like the Reform and Alliance it wanted direct election of senators and initiative, recall, and referendum-they also wanted some far out progressive and left wing stuff but let's not complicate things.
It was a 4-year experiment that failed and TR went back to the Republicans in 1916. Somehow the Alliance thought it could outsmart history and the problem of vote splitting.
Politics is a strange game and the Alliance, under Day, has shown absolutely no ability to break through the 25-30% barrier of support. Day and his leadership of politburo thugs have pined for grassroots considerations when what this party needs is a scorched earth policy to kill it and get the right back together in a more centrist Conservative Party.
In Canada the movement of Reform/Alliance may just be a footnote to history. In the final analysis the people who changed their vote from a morally bankrupt Conservative party in 1993 may have no alternative than to return in 2001.
George W. Bush won the US election in 2000 at the end of the greatest economic boom in the past 25 years by offering a simple choice. No vague references to referendums and grassroots he ran as a pro-life, pro-missile defense, tax cutting, conservative. Bush remained true to his conservative roots but offered an alternative to big government-something the Reform/Alliance has never been able to sell east of Alberta.
Some of the members of the party have already found this out. In August there will be serious talks between selected Alliance members, namely the DRC, and the Progressive Conservatives. This will once and for all decide whether an alternative to the ruling Liberals can be achieved by bringing together not just the right but anyone who wants real change be it parliamentary or electoral reform.
Before that happens the Alliance should scrap the idea of a traditional leadership race. They should find all those who want to be leader, stick them in a house with 24-hour cameras, sell the rights to television and have them vote each other off in weekly tribal councils.
If politics is blood sport then why not make them fight for immunity on national television. At least we would have something to watch. Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance, the tribe has spoken, you are the weakest link, goodbye!
Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver,
Canada writing on domestic and international
political issues. He also writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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