Wednesday, May 2, 2007

When even winning means losing

It's always telling when a politician is so utterly defeated that they are reduced to preaching policies that are fundamentally those of their opponent. So it was this morning that I heard Hugh McFadyen practically read from an NDP resolutions booklet in answering questions from the public on a CBC radio Q&A hosted by Marcy Markusa.

It used to be the NDP reading from the Tories' playbook. It was once thought that the left had lost so much ground to the right that New Democrats had to essentially become Tories to gain power. Then today I heard Hugh

  • say that we need more child care spaces;
  • promise that, under the Tories, health care would be improved (it's universal and "rightly so," he noted);
  • argue that we need a balanced approach to crime -- not just enforcement, but also crime prevention in the form of creating more opportunities for youth;
  • praise Manitoba Hydro as a publicly-owned monopoly and vow never to sell it; and
  • refuse to commit to reducing or eliminating the payroll tax even though he recognizes it's a "bad tax."

He's sounding more like a New Democrat every day. Of course, he might just have softened his tone thinking that CBC listeners would be more liberal than most voters, but still...

It's always the goal of a successful party to drub their opponents so badly and for so long that the opponents cede the terms and language of the debate and sit back clinging to the faint hope that some amorphous mood for change somehow sweeps them into office. If and when the opposition wins, they are so stripped of their own ideas and policies (often through promises that they won't do this or won't do that) and so used to promoting those of the governing party that all they can do is meekly follow the course that's been set. It amounts to losing even when you've won.

In this so far sleepy campaign, Hugh's going to need a whole lot more than a "pray for change" strategy to wind up Premier after May 22. I sure wouldn't want to be sitting in the Tory back rooms right now.

The photo is of the Kennedy-Nixon debate, 1960.

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