Monthly Archives: September 2009

To all who call themselves "progressives" yet vote Liberal, Please Read!

I would like to think that being “progressive” entails a whole series of critical renegotiations (one’s relation to capitalism, to democracy, even to politics itself) as well as certain political demands (electoral reform, justice, civil rights etc.). Yet, I’ll settle for this one. To all self-styled “progressives” who vote Liberal, please re-examine your assumption that the Liberals are in fact “progressive”. That may be the most singularly dangerous piece of unquestioned self-evidence circulating out there. Thanks to Jan from the Bruce for drawing my attention to this excellent piece exposing the federal Liberals led by Ignatieff as hollow and false champions of the “Left”.


I urge “progressives” to read fully and carefully the linked article, particularly those who voted “strategically” in last year’s election (one of the casualties of which was incumbent Peggy Nash being ousted by Gerard Kennedy- that is, a first rate parliamentarian and true champion of the Left, respected by all, being replaced by a second rate politician and false “progressive”). Here’s a sample:

On Friday, the Liberal Party of Canada threw down the gauntlet and submitted a vote of no confidence in the minority government led by Conservative PM Stephen Harper. Many progressives might think “why not?” Harper is, after all, a wolf in wolf’s clothing, managing to run a neoconservative, neoliberal government with voter support of his party in the mid-30 percent range, and all the rest of Canada to his left.

Unfortunately, Harper’s challenger, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, is just as much a wolf, but poses a much greater danger to the Left because he dresses as our shepherd…

Until Friday, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals had supported the Conservative government in 79 consecutive confidence votes since 2007. That wouldn’t be so concerning if the Liberals had been winning major concessions for progressives, but no such luck.

At a basic level, Ignatieff has acted in ideological accord with the Conservatives. Ignatieff is short on details of how he would have behaved any differently than Harper, even when agitating for an election. If he is a progressive at all, it is in hindsight only: whether in the States or in Parliament, Ignatieff goes along when policy is being made, denies problems as they occur and complains unconvincingly about the consequences.

Ouch! In today’s Globe & Mail

On the bright side: it’s not like it was a top Liberal making the salient point that “Michael” is a little too Narcissieff.

Rick Salutin
Narcissieff in the mirror of politics

Judgment day: Michael Ignatieff will make a seriously bad candidate

Perhaps Michael Ignatieff’s views weren’t as sinister as they once seemed. When, for instance, he wrote in favour of what’s been called torture lite, which means torture that doesn’t leave marks; or supported the war on Iraq, which he halfheartedly recanted; or the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which really only applies to the right of powerful nations to attack weak ones; or selective bombing of the Balkans in the 1990s. Maybe he just had a twerpy impulse to follow where those in power – the Clintons, Bushes or Blairs – led.

So let’s turn to the consequential question for Canadian politics – not what he thinks but how he’ll campaign. This was always the doubtful element: Can he lead the Liberal Party to victory? Remember that he never won the leadership. He began as a strong favourite, frittered that away and lost to Stéphane Dion. Then he seized power last winter without having to face challenges from Bob Rae or Dominic LeBlanc. He has yet to show he can win.

My own sense is that he’ll make a seriously bad candidate, due to what I’d call his narcissism. This isn’t so much about adoring yourself, as being so self-absorbed that your sense of how others react to you goes missing. A therapist I know says it usually involves “a great deal of self-referencing. A real other doesn’t exist except as an extension of themselves.” This won’t be useful when you’re asking for people’s votes, against other candidates.

For instance: “I’ve been lucky in my life to meet famous people.” And, “I just pick up the phone and call some of my friends in his [the Obama] administration.” As if we should be impressed, or envious. He recounted how witty he and the Prez got with each other (“He said, rather amusingly …”). And how the President complimented him on things he’d written, which “made this particular Canadian author feel pretty good.” That stuff may go down well with adoring audiences at author readings but, in politics, it’s better to have your flunkies leak it for you. We’re not at Harbourfront any more, Toto.

He told CBC Radio’s Eleanor Wachtel that politics is “the most incredible adventure of all the adventures I’ve had in my life. … It’s been unforgettable no matter how it turns out.” But for people in the country, how it turns out is what counts; he can save all the savouring for his next memoir. He told Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker: “I’ve been a spectator a lot of my life but this is about acting. … You have to be ready for combat, and you have to lead troops.” It’s not that it’s wrong to reflect on life’s twists and turns, but he seems so captivated and preoccupied. Instead of revelling in the fab experience of being an actor, how about just Doing Something?

It’s this misplaced emphasis that suggests an emotional tone deafness. The narcissism makes you oblivious to signals sent by others about how they perceive you, leading, one fears, to bad times on the campaign trail.

It’s not the same as egomania, which can work in politics. Egomania requires you to be aware of others in order to dominate or manipulate them. With narcissism, you barely notice them, you bask in your own presence and assume everyone does. Even Stéphane Dion didn’t seem narcissistic. Just arrogant: a guy who felt so superior, he was sure everyone would follow his lead. But narcissism blocks the reality of others, hence the stream of off-putting remarks.

Narcissieff himself seems to have a sense of this. “What is it that a great politician knows?” he asked Adam Gopnik. “I’m trying to learn that.” You might expect him to have had a clue before running to be PM, but at least he’s asking. Trouble is, a narcissistic makeup can stand in the way of finding an answer. It cuts off the natural ability to pay attention to others. He looks, someone said recently, as if he’s Voguing a politician.

Translating Kinsella

As promised, in the wake of the wanton and desperate spinning on Kinsella’s Blog, I thought that periodically I might offer, free of charge, a translation of said blog for the Kinsella impaired (i.e. those who aren’t Liberals).

So, yesterday Warren woke up to find that the following had appeared in the Hill Times:

He’s [Ignatieff] put absolutely nothing on the table. It’s just empty rhetoric,” a top Liberal who supported Mr. Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ont.) in both of his leadership campaigns told The Hill Times last week. “It’s not enough to say, ‘That in good times we’re going to bring forward the progress…’ If he goes into an election and doesn’t really have anything substantive to put on the table, we’re looking at a massacre.”

Although, this appears to be one of the most sensible and indisputable statements regarding Ignatieff’s tenure so far, Warren was not too happy. Predictably Warren saw this as an unwarranted attacked, a betrayal etc., as if even a wisp of criticism of “Michael” will be tolerated by Kinsella. More predictably still was Kinsella’s reaction. He responds with intimidation and threatens to hunt down this Liberal mole and put that mole out of his/her misery. He writes: “I intend to find out who you are, little Hill Times source weasel, and I intend to take a chainsaw to your political ambitions, however modest they may be.”

No need to counterspin the unveiled threat, but we should note that the bluster, the sturm and drang, is an obvious attempt to distract from the fact that the Hill Times has made a very serious and damaging point regarding the Liberal campaign. Moreover, not to be missed, is Kinsella’s attempt to co-opt Susan Delacourt for his cause. My reading of her piece is not that she too wants to hunt down and expose this mole, but that she is simply noting that this kind of instability and infighting is inherent to the Liberal brand, particularly when they’re not in power. After all, inherent to Liberal ideology is the sense of entitlement to govern without having to “put anything on the table”.
Anyway, a simple translation of Kinsella’s blog for the last couple of weeks: a frenzied attempt to overhype his candidate because even a Liberal minority is a long shot in the coming “guerre” as he likes to call it. So disregard the pleas for tickets to sold out events, and the exaggerated claims (Iggy will clean up the economic mess- you mean the one the Liberals are largely responsible for???). Liberals are desperate for an election not because they realistically think they can win this one, but because their chances only get worse from here on out.
So why won’t the Liberals form the next government? I think Chantal Hebert nails it with this piece. And like a good Liberal, on the day that Hebert’s piece came out, Kinsella sidesteps the insightful article and instead attempts once again simply to change the channel by launching attacks and selectively quoting from the press.
p.s. still on the search for truly intelligent life in the Liberal blogosphere. “Impolitical” is OK, but are there any Liberal blogs capable of being incisive, astute, and simply well written?

Any intelligent Liberals out there?

Perhaps I should be posting on craigslist or tweeting this, but would someone kindly point me in the direction of an intelligent Liberal blog? It’s as if pursuing the centre of the political spectrum necessarily requires limited or middling intelligence. The problem with middling intelligence (shared by the likes of Kinsella and his Sancho Panzas (Cherniak, Bowie, et al) is that it’s just enough intelligence to embolden them, but sadly not quite enough to allow them to know better.

I mean, the right wing of the blogosphere may have plenty of drivel, but one can also find there the very intelligent and clever offerings of Edward Michael George or Ghost of a Flea, for instance. I may often disagree vehemently with them, but I can’t but respect their writing. Sadly, I have yet to encounter a Liberal blogger whose intelligence I feel compelled to respect.
Anyway, I may soon have to start a Kinsella counterspin/ translation blog. For the last number of months, the spin has been so wanton and irresponsible that it begs to be countered. For example, when the Ontario Liberals retained one of their safest seats anywhere in yesterday’s by-election (since being established in 1999, the Liberals have always taken the seat with over 50% of the vote), Kinsella interprets that as being up “against formidable odds”.
For now, I’m just glad Kinsella has stopped referring to Ignatieff as “Michael” and followed that up by removing that creepy photo of Ignatieff (you remember, that one in which Ignatieff looks about 35 years old, has windswept hair, is wearing what I believe is a football jersey (gag!) and looks like a college student in search of a keg party). I’m guessing the purpose was to make Ignatieff more down to earth and accessible (remember Dion’s problem shedding the image of the “professorial” aloof politician?). Whatever it was, the choice to use that photo appeared a little freaky. Check out Kinsella’s posts around January or February of this year and you’ll see what I mean. He continually gushes over “Michael” like a teenage girl. But hey, if that’s the face that launches you into dreamland, so be it. I’m not here to judge.
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Update: I’ve added hyperlink above to said photo for the benefit of those who asked.