Monday, 9 May 2011

Strategic Campaigning and Vote Pairing, Not Mergers

Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Tony Blair (left) and David
Cameron (right).

Image Source: The Spectator blog
 Okay, given the disastrous result on May 2, some progressives are thinking that now is the time to merge the Liberals into the NDP. This is bad, for quite a few reasons:

  • It would dilute the social democratic element in the NDP as Dippers try to gain access to big Liberal Donors.
  • Said dilution would mean many innovative social democratic ideas (like Anti-Scab Legislation, Guaranteed Minimum Income, Green Works programs, or a harm reduction drug policy) would never make it into parliamentary debates.
  • Strict centrists would stay home and blue Liberals would leave en masse to the Conservatives (some of them already did in Southern Ontario this election).
  • This would create a Two-Party system in Canada, with viciously partisan rhetoric in a dishonest attempt to distinguish two increasingly similar parties. 
  • A Two-Party model would mean both parties are obsessed with forming government, thereby pressuring both to run to the corporate centre (via the Investment Theory of Party Competition), further diluting the social democratic element of the NDP (Remember "New Labour"?). This is especially the case if public financing laws are repealed or caps on private contributions dropped (an average corporate CEO can out fund raise an average Union leader any day of the week).  
  • Lastly, in spite of what I said yesterday, the Federal NDP did learn something from its Manitoban brethren. Unfortunately, it was a bad lesson: cults of personality work. The Cult of Layton's personality, however, is just as likely to weaken the Federal NDP in the long-run as the Cult of Doer's personality did to the Provincial NDP.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum?: Harper (left) and Layton
(right). Jack Layton has accepted the Conservative
framing on consumption taxes and, to an extent,
crime. The new Two Party realities may push
even more similarities.

Image Source: The National Post

The real solution isn't merger, it's strategic campaigning. If the NDP can't win Southern Ontario, don't campaign heavily there. If the Liberals can't win in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, don't divert federal funds to the riding or emphasize that region a lot in your national campaign. Remember, merging really didn't increase Tory support - Adscam did!

On the voting level, the centre-left needs to make use of vote pairing on a mass scale to thwart future Conservative Majorities. While not infallible, they're better than the alternative: Conservatives running up the middle across Canada.

In the long-term, of course, the goal must be electoral reform. Whether the Chretien Liberals, Today's NDP, or the Harper Government™, false majorities must not be tolerated.


  1. The Liberals continue to pull in different directions even now. The issue of an interim leader is already causing friction. I don't think another coronation is useful.

    The caucus and the exec should simply say that a leadership convention will be set sometime off in the future and fix a reasonable date.

    My feeling is that the party might do well to have Ralph Goodale and Marc Garneau share interim duties if they are not running for the full-time leadership. Then the party can focus on the policy, fundraising, constitution and critic jobs in the House. With four years till the next election, the leadership should not be decided now. Interim really has to mean interim.

  2. The Liberals need to give up this tendency to use Party Leaders as scapegoats. A battle seasoned Dion may have done better than Ignatieff this election.

  3. The Liberal Party needs to focus less on short-term plans for Blitzkrieg type victories and more on long-term party building. And, for the love of humanity, don't treat Justin Trudeau as some sort of Messianic savior.