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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Challenge of being a "Centrist"

     On the political spectrum, I consider myself a centrist. I don't subscribe to the views of any particular political party, but I make no secret of the fact, given our current choices I identify most closely with the Liberal Party of Canada. The point is, I can and will change my vote because I won't be loyal to a party, that would make me a partisan, leading to the need to defend things I don't agree with because of my affiliation.

     I wondered, if I'm not a partisan, am I an idealogue? I pondered the idea for quite some time, but I came to the realization in order to be an idealogue, I 'd have to subscribe to a single ideology, and when I take stock of my views on individual areas of policy, I realize I'm slightly or very liberal on some of the issues, yet somewhere in the moderate right on others.

     Since I can't seem to pigeonhole myself into either of the accepted political categories, I have no choice but to consider myself a centrist. Perhaps even, in the words of the sitting Prime Minister, an arch-centrist. I understand his feeling the need to demonize we centrists, there are a hell of a lot of us, a vast majority of us and should we ever find a way to coalesce our similar, yet diverse, values, Mr Harper has a massive challenge on his hands.

     Right now, arch-centrists like myself are agonizing. We're feeling a little alone in the Canadian political wilderness. The mostly moderate have come to the precipice. Backing the Conservative Party, even under a different leader is not within the realm of possibility. We prefer that our Canada is not "Made in America". Ditto for the NDP, we arch-centrists may have a sense of social justice, but not at the expense of taking policy directions that would hurt us on a wider global scale, we're just a little more pragmatic than that. Unless we are willing to wait a century, our X on the ballot will not be for the Green Party candidate, their name is an anchor around them, for a generation or more of us, the Green Party is inexorably tied to a lot of very suspect people in Europe and you can't call yourself the Green Party without claiming ownership of the origins, no matter how different you may be, your name is an albatross. By now, one would think the Liberal Party faithful would be standing on the chairs cheering as team Arch-Centrist marches into the arena, but hold your applause, we are seriously questioning whether you can deliver on the absolutely most volatile group of voters, that huge mob of Arch-Centrists. Perhaps the group most likely to influence the outcome of any kind of vote but far more difficult to please, or to fool, than any other voting bloc.

     I'm getting to know a lot more people of a similar sentiment. We've disengaged ourselves from narrow party politics, generally preferring to vote (or not) for the party that is advancing the platform that comes closest to our personal feelings. In the past it has generally meant we decided the outcome of elections by using our considerably powerful ability to swing a vote. We've had some close elections in the past, where we either had a tough time discerning which party had the better platform at the time, or the issues were such we truly were divided by which side of the line we sat on, red or blue. Orange just wasn't a factor, that was the reality and I remain unconvinced it is the new reality. I congratulate them on their success, I believe they absolutely must be heard in any Canadian debate, however I refuse to pass judgement on their performance in the most recent election. I spoke of volatility earlier and the NDP were the net beneficiary of that. The Quebec electorate faced a dilemma. It took a while, but mainstream public opinion changed on the value of sending members to the parliament of Canada who would never be in a position where they could actually advance their interests since it would be impossible to form government. Worn out by shallow pandering, power grabs, and plenty of corruption for over 100 years, Quebeckers, who have always shown themselves to be engaged, intelligent voters who understand what it takes to advance their particular interests and agendas and I respect them, even if we perhaps differ on our views of what would be best for Quebec and for Canada, absolutely hate Harper and have lost their trust in the Liberal Party as well. The difference between Quebeckers and non-Quebeckers, is, historically, they will go to the polls with a steely determination to deliver Quebec as a huge prize to a single party. Not unanimously, mind you, just overwhelmingly. In an election where everyone took the Quebec vote for granted, it was a perfect opportunity for a "carpe diem" moment, and Jack Layton's NDP team seized the day. They campaigned hard on Quebec issues and spent a lot of time in the Province while others made their courtesy visits as they criss-crossed the country. Blissfully ignorant because both parties are so used to being the only choice, they dismissed evidence something was amiss in Quebec. I don't envy opposition leader Jack Layton, he is going to have to try to do what no other person has been able to. Layton will have to figure out how to keep the Quebec base while growing in the rest of Canada, a balancing act I'm not sure his party is up for. Not that any of the current parties are up for it, at this time and place in our history. The volatility that vaulted the NDP to opposition status is very fragile, to put it kindly, and could just as easily come back to bite them, hard.

     Hence the dilemma of the centrist in Canada today. Quebec is a bit of a microcosm, not for the rest of the country, but for centrists and arch centrists alike. The difference outside of Quebec is we don't have anyone speaking to us we have a reason to want to commit to. While can all agree on our desire for social justice and a better country for the strong and the weak alike, where we stand in the centre still seems to be problematic. The dilemma faced by Jack Layton in Quebec is the same one, to great extent, as that faced by those who seek to define the centre. We are an extremely hard bunch to label. For the most part we are moderate in just about every sense of the world, however we do have some diverse things we are passionate about, but we aren't all passionate about the same thing, so we tend to fall to one side or the other, or not vote at all as it has become far to difficult to decide who to back. This is as delicate a balancing act as any. I believe there are plenty of people who can appeal the the innate moderate views of the centrists, while balancing the needs of those who still feel centrist but happen to fall father from the middle to one side or the other than the rest of the pack.

     I know what it will take to capture my vote. I have an idea I know how to capture more than just my vote/ Unfortunately, I've not found a politican willing to sit and actually take in why I don't consider any of them to be an extremely palatable choice. I guess if I call myself a think-tank or a consultant and charge a hefty fee for my ideas I may be taken a little more seriously by the people who would have me install them as ruler. Maybe that's the ticket, although, I suspect something far different.

    I suspect the party that will recapture the hearts and minds of the 60%'ers, the moderates, the centrists, does not exist at this time. Unless the Liberal Party gets the kind of earth moving massive change that will be required, they aren't it. The jury remains out as I am willing, for a short time, to give the benefit of the doubt, although judging from the attitude I've had from some Liberals, I don't think they understand 1970 left.

     As ludicrous as it sounds, it may be time for a party, from scratch, built by the massive percentage of Canadians wandering in the vast wilderness of the centre. Just as I give the benefit of the doubt as to the ability of Mr Layton to retain Quebec while building across the nation, and extend the same to the idea of the rejuvenation of the Liberals, I must also extend the same courtesy to the idea the party of the centre may not yet exist.

     My patience has lasted a couple of decades. It won't last forever. I suspect I am far from alone in my nearly unbearable dissatisfaction with the status quo. I know I am not alone in believing we can build a better Canada. The kind of Canada our veterans fought and died for. Not this Canada.

     You'll forgive my anguish, I feel as though I've lost my voice and can't find the right doctor to cure me.

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