Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

1+1<2?

Andrew Steele has come out firmly against the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger with the logic that most Liberal voters actually don’t prefer the NDP as their second choice, nor do most NDP voters automatically default to the Liberals for their second choice – at least, so says this March EKOS poll. So, a Canadian “Lib Dem” party would be an example of 1+1=less than 2.

Though not famed for my math skills, I agree with the above – though for me, it’s only half the argument. I’m a big supporter of coalition talks and party cooperation – but merger talk is a non-starter. Not only because 1+1 equal less than 2, as Steele argues, but it’s also clear that one of the Liberals’ biggest problems is internal disunity. Martin, Dion, and Ignatieff aren’t in themselves the “problem” – what leader could possibly hope to unite the disparate factions from the party’s left, its right, its Chretienite, etc.? (The only thing that can really unify Liberals, it seems to me, is the immediate prospect of electoral success – a collective “don’t cock this up” mentality takes over, and the internal rivalries subside).

Complicating the left by trying to create a big-top circus-tent “progressive” party would exacerbate these problems – we’d end up with a big broad party which is more internally factionalised, vaster-and-vaguer with lowest-common-denominator policies, and less able to define itself through an “elevator pitch” than today’s Liberal Party. (Plus, I could never advocate reducing the number of options on our ballot papers!)

Better than this merger talk would be the Liberals accepting the NDP position that we need electoral reform, which could lead to progressive votes, from Green to Liberal to NDP, going further and being accurately reflected in the House – plus we’d be protecting a vibrant multiparty democracy, rather than slipping towards bland, bipartisan centrism.

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