Opinion: Why did the election not go the Conservatives’ way? That’s the wrong question

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As the Conservatives mourn their latest electoral loss, their 24th loss in the last 37 elections, the party can console itself that it is nothing short of advice. Leave the leader! Keep the leader! Raise the base! Build on what you have! Lean to the left! Lean to the right! Arise, sit, fight, fight, fight!

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For her part, Erin O’Toole mostly attributes the losses to strategy and tactics’ failures. They have hired the defeated Alberta MP James Cumming to chair a review of “what went wrong” with the campaign, as if it were all a case of buying too many ads on TV and not enough on Facebook, or yours. What is near

Tactics and tactics are not irrelevant. Among the many, many drawbacks of First Past Post is that it encourages parties not to win as many votes as they can, but less as they should, to channel their energies on a couple dozen knife-edged rides. Targeting and largely ignoring the rest. A few thousand votes could either way mark the difference between the government and the opposition, as they did this time.


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But in broad strokes it still comes down to: Are people buying what you’re selling? Or: are you selling them something worth buying – a program that is specific, relevant, engaging and, if possible, right?

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On this score, Cummings Review can report back today. The problem, one might say, is simple: “We don’t know what we stand for. Where we do, we scare the public into getting involved. In many cases this is with good reason. On most issues that are relevant to the public, we either have nothing to say, or we say the same thing as liberals, or we differ wildly from both popular and expert opinion.

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These strike me as more important considerations as to whether the stage moved too far to the “middle” or too far to the “right”. People in politics talk about these as if they were a fixed and immutable reference point, like the Greenwich Meridian. They are not.

Politics is not just about capturing the middle ground, but defining where the middle is. Pull the masses your way enough, and it becomes the new middle. Balanced budgets have long been heresy. He was orthodox then. Right now they are hypocrites again, but I have no doubt they will be conservative long ago – provided one argues.

In any case, what the conservatives proposed to the people in this election did little more than lead to the middle. No attempt was made to base the propositions in any coherent set of principles, conservative or otherwise. Instead the public was presented with a bewildering series of contrasts: between the platform and established party doctrine, from deficits to taxes to free trade; between the stage and the leader, which under pressure rejected its dominant sections; Between leader and base, and indeed between leader and himself – the tough-talking “Take Back Canada” candidate who swept the party in last year’s leadership race, versus the squid “I Take It Back” candidate in which he called himself changed the moment he was elected.

That way you get a forum that proposes banning bargaining at puppy mills, mandating worker representation on company boards and legalizing assault rifles.

The point has been made that, having already reinvented himself at least twice, Mr. O’Toole now faces a lack of authenticity to placate the party’s disaffected base, A shift to the right can only make it worse.

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But the same is true of the party. Leaders like Mr O’Toole are always a sign of a party that has lost its way. Left-leaning was hardly new in the latest Conservative platform: the party has been increasingly left-wing for the past 20 years. (Compare 2004 or 2006 platforms with recent installments: the difference is striking.)

It is just that most of the concessions have been made by the party’s economic conservatives, who are closest to the mainstream but are the least confident of themselves. Privatization, reform of social services, regulation, no care for a balanced budget: nobody in the conservative movement talks about these anymore.

This leaves a remnant of staunch cultural conservatives, who are farthest from the mainstream but most confident of themselves. The result: a platform that has little specific to offer on bread-and-butter issues that may attract centrist voters, but has much to remind them why they’re not conservative and don’t like much Huh.

Of course, the reason the party has so little to say about policy is that, like other Canadian political parties, it is completely absorbed in the leader. When the leader is the party and the party is the leader, the policy is what the leader says he or she is at any given time. Tuesday’s party caucus meeting, with its historic vote with the power to sack the leader at any time, is a step towards its redress.

But the party itself has to think deeply. For more than a hundred years, the Conservatives, as they are called, the extra wheel of Canadian politics, have been elected by the public only after the liberals are sufficiently fed up with them. If they aspire to become something else, they first need to consider why they are something else: why they are not liberals, assuming that it is explained by fundamental differences on policy, not vice versa. .

What core beliefs do they share that are not shared by liberals? Where is the overlap between what they believe and what the public can be convinced of? How can they expand that overlap, whether by better explaining existing policies or by adopting new policies that conform to their core beliefs but apply to new problems, concerns the types of voters they haven’t reached before?

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On the other hand, the beliefs they cling to so far, which are out of date, or can’t be sold to the public, or simply wrong (or, when it comes to the party’s tacit opposition to carbon pricing , so all three?)

If conservatives pick it up with some zeal, they might be surprised at the result. They may find that they can get a hearing for typical conservative, even radical proposals to improve Canada’s economic development, if they find sensible, market-oriented environmentalism and genuine proposals to address inequality. is combined with.

That way they can define a new middle. Instead of going to the middle, they can take the middle to themselves.

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