It’s clearly time to look beyond Paul Martin Jr. as don of the federal Liberals.
He’s been flailing away at Prozak Harper for ten days now without effect, and his desperation is evident. I sensed it was over about halfway through the second English language debate when I discovered myself tuning out while Martin was caterwauling about National Unity. A few seconds later I caught myself thinking, hey, Harper isn’t that bad.
Harper is that bad, but that’s not the point. The point is that Martin is finished barring a miraculous series of gaffes by Harper, and so is Martin’s stewardship of the Liberals.
So, who’s next?
The conventional media has already pointed out that there’s no obvious successor. This isn’t cause for hand-wringing. We should all treat this as a hugely good thing, not a problem. There’s Michael Ignatieff, who has the both the good looks and the intellectual goods, but likely neither the temperament nor the requisite taste for bloody short-sword brawling to successfuly clean out the remnant Chretien and Martin racketeers—something that won’t be optional if the party is to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves. It’s not even clear at this point that Ignatieff can fight his way out of Etobicoke, where he’s run seriously afoul of the lunatic fringe amongst his liberal constitutients for a couple of accurate but impolitic remarks he made in Blood and Belonging. Then there’s Frank McKenna, who’s already manuevring behind the sets to make a run. He’s done a decent job in Washington , but I’m not sure he has enough vision or energy to remove the tar from his own chicken suit let along clean up the Party’s act. Who else? Pierre Pettigrew? Nah. He’s bright enough, but with the big hair and the funny accent, he’s also a caricature of what average American visitors to Disney think French Canadians look and act like. And since the current U.S. president perceives the world through a slightly simplified version of what the AADV can handle, well, you get the idea…
At first it seems a little bleak out there, because the Chretien/Martin civil war, and the subsequent defenestration of the young echelon of Chretien/Trudeau loyalists emptied the Party of most of its best talent. But wait! Conventional viewpoints won’t work anyway. The party needs to go back to basics, ask itself what a 2005 Liberal ought to believe and how he/she ought to act. When it does that, new leadership candidates should start pouring out of the woodwork.
So, what is a 2005 Liberal, anyway? First, she/he’s got to be decent and nice, and he/she must have a spotless public record. He/she must be nationally known, and easily recognizable. Other qualifications: good public relations skills, catchy name, easily likeable, some managerial success, able to keep his/her pantlegs from getting stuck in her/his shoe-tops, and a grasp of what goes on in the trenches. It would help, too, if he/she’s a better athlete than Robert Stanfield and has at least minimal multicultural qualifications, and I don’t mean merely being friendly to the domestic staff. Pretty much all the things that Paul Martin Jr. isn’t, in other words.
Is the next Liberal leader coming into focus? Dunno about you, but I’m getting Pinball Clemons, coach of the Toronto Argonauts front and centre. He’s got the track record, and he’s probably the nicest guy in the country who actually understands and appreciates what a great country it really is. And yes, I’m perfectly serious about this. If you’re not, well, over to you.
600 words, January 12, 2006