Antonia Maioni wrote an article called Grits: Be bold, or get lost in today’s Globe and Mail. I agree with the premise of her article, that is, that boldness is required for my dear Libs to get back on board as the natural governing party, but I can’t help but think that she may be a little bit off-base in her recommendations. Take this one, for example:
Move away from the middle of the road: For years, Liberals have fed off the notion of moderation and centrism, of being neither here nor there. But the middle of the road can be a dangerous place – especially if you don’t know where you’re going. The Liberal Party’s challenge is to reimagine the political spectrum as a multidimensional space, not just a flat line where they struggle to hold an imaginary middle position.
Let’s ignore the multidimensional space comment for a minute (I’m not entirely sure what the implication is, although I think I kind of manage to address it) and attack the conceit of the first sentence.
Centrism doesn’t mean being in the middle of the road or being “neither here nor there”—not by definition, at any rate. To suggest otherwise is to be suckered by campaign rhetoric and, maybe, some of the campaign performances of the recent past. The political centre isn’t about not knowing which way you’re going, either. That’s skewing the stance with partisan rhetoric, too.
Centrism is about moderation, but moderation doesn’t mean caution and hand-wringing. It means understanding what you’re going to do, making sure it’s the best choice, supporting your argument, and then acting after measured thought.
Centrism is about shrugging off the accepted notions of the left and the right, about looking at an issue, researching it, learning, talking to the parties involved, and making the best decision.
Centrism is about being firm in your conviction that to accomplish great things, one must understand what it is one’s trying to accomplish, and trusting the facts to be the force to guide you to those great things.
Centrism is about basing policy on dialogue, research, and truth.
Centrism is about doing what’s best, not about what’s doing what’s best for your base.
Centrism is about social justice, and making sure that .
Centrism is about what’s fair. Not what’s equal: what’s fair.
And you know what galls me most of all? This stance has become the third choice of Canadians. Basing policy on facts instead of feelings? How is that a bad thing? Wanting more information? Having a history of surplus and strong economies? Building jobs while improving health care? Finding more money for programs in ways that don’t bankrupt the taxpayer? How are any of these things bad?
There’s a lot of rancor surrounding the idea that the Liberals think of themselves as the natural governing party. And yeah, that’s arrogant, and it has to go. But really, when you look at how the other parties base their platforms and policies – the right on what feels conservative and traditional and sounds economically sound (even though it actually isn’t), and the left on what is most socially just (but fiscally unsustainable) – then you start to see the strength of a centrist position.
And centrists can be radical, too. Knowing that this country needs a major shift back to a strong middle-class and energy sustainability past the life of tar sands, building more jobs at home and ensuring that those retiring from their jobs are going to have the health care they need, and a better focus on social justice, as Bob Rae put it in his speech at the Summer Caucus… this is a pretty radical departure from what has been the status quo. It would require a major economic restructuring, serious information gathering, teams of professional consultants from all sorts of fields, and a major push for social stability.
That doesn’t sound like a party that doesn’t know what it wants. That sounds like a radical centrist to me.
Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.