Sunday, January 29, 2012

Liberal Invisibility Is Liberal Non-Existence

Liberals like to pretend, and this is reinforced by public opinion, that the Liberal Party didn't stand for anything in the last election and that's why they lost. Liberal members and the public both say this, both acknowledge this, both perpetuate this, that the party led by Michael Ignatieff offered nothing on May 2nd 2011 and that is why it was reduced to a historic low in Parliament. Though the Liberal Party and the public share little in common, as recent polling indicates, they do share this, they're both wrong.

For the public, it's easy to understand why Canadians thought the Liberal Party didn't stand for anything in the last election, they didn't offer anything new, and when something doesn't perceptually change, just like the Liberal platform, it's existence is ignored.

How Canadians came to ignore Liberal policies is similar to how we all see in general. When light enters our eye it must go through blood vessels to reach our retina on its back wall, but because those blood vessels are stationary our brain has adapted to ignore the shadows they cast. Just like a stagnate political party, stabilized images are unvarying stimuli which disappear from our awareness:

For example, if a small piece of paper is dropped on the inside of one's forearm, it is felt for a few seconds, then the sensation is no longer present; this is because the tactile neurons have adapted. But if one jiggles one's arm up and down, giving varying stimulation, one continues to feel the paper until it falls off one's arm.
Much like our sensory system if Canadians are presented with a constant and unchanging stimulus it will be grown accustomed to and ignored. It is no wonder then that Canadians saw the Liberal Party as not standing for anything when Liberals offered nothing the public hadn't seen before.

For Liberals, it's all too easy to understand why members cling to the idea that they didn't stand for anything on May 2nd. It certainly feels a lot better to convince oneself that the Liberals lost by not trying than trying and losing. Liberals in believing they didn't offer policies to Canadians have turned a fatal indictment of their policies to a mere recommendation to advertise them better.

With this false belief that the Liberal Party lost because they didn't offer Canadians a real platform, Liberals have fooled themselves into believing they don't have to make substantive policy changes or reform for the next election, all they have to do is have better public relations.

The fact of the matter is Michael Ignatieff offered one of the most in-depth platforms, Liberals offered policies on every major issue, and announcements were made by caucus members almost every day. The problem was and is that the Liberals have stood on the same policies of a national childcare program, targeted post-secondary funding, the Kelowna Accord, Kyoto and many others for far too many elections.

The Party has adopted Marijuana legalization, a new policy, but all too similar to decriminalization which also has been touted by Liberals for a decade.  To be relevant, to be seen Grits need to not just take a stand, but to stand for something new, something different. It doesn't require an abdication of liberal principles but an abdication of stagnate Liberal policies.

It was not that the Liberals didn't stand for anything in the last election, it was that they stood for the same things they have always stood for, and unfortunately, in reality to be seen one has to change or they're ignored. It's not just basic politics, it's basic biology.

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