Maybe it’s a bit early, and optimistic, to start charting the course of the Liberals’ rebuilding efforts (note to the Libs: anything less than a full structural rebuilding isn’t going to cut it. The voters know windowdressing when they see it), but it is interesting to hear the change in tone on Warren Kinsella’s blog:
First post of the new era, so my wife knows I’m serious:
My work is done. Someone else’s turn, now.
I guess it goes without saying that Martin was the lightning rod in the Martin-Chretien civil war, but Warren’s first words in the “new era” suggests that with Martin’s gracious departure, the war won’t be continued among the remaining forces. I’m sure that the bitterness might remain, but perhaps it won’t be focused into two bold forces out to battle for the soul of the Liberal party. If nothing else, the supporters who backed Martin’s rise to power now seem to have divided into at least two separate camps: Scott Brison and Frank McKenna. And it’s likely that other candidates are pulling together their own supporters, and there may be some movement towards the benefit of the Liberal Party, as opposed to a particularly power-hungry and dirty-fighting candidate for that party.
Either way, Kinsella is already talking about the people the Liberals need to rebuild themselves into a party that can deserve the voters’ respect. Among those, he’s mentioned Jason Cherniak who has, over the course of the campaign, shown that he can walk away from a punch in the face bragging about the damage he’s done to the other guy’s knuckles.
Jason’s loyalty to the party and its leader in the face of, well, everything the fates have thrown at him over the past year or so, had many bloggers staring at him in both derision and disbelief. However, Jason somehow maintained Kinsella’s respect while taking him to task for attacking Martin’s leadership, so the guy has the ability to take people on and yet keep their respect. And I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jason rally many within the loose association of personal Liberal bloggers to keep the faith during the campaign. Warren’s right: the guy’s got the organizational chops, and is just the sort of young liberal the Liberals need.
Let’s hope they have the resiliency to handle repeated disappointment. While decent things could come out of a Liberal leadership convention this summer, it might be optimistic to expect the Liberals to be completely rebuilt and ready to accept the voter’s trust at the end of this minority parliament. I suspect most Canadians believe that the Liberals need more time than that to really and truly clean out their closets. McGuinty needed six years before the public was ready for him to be premier. For the good of the country, let us hope that when the Liberals are back, it’s because the party has something to offer, and not because the Conservatives have soured voter trust.
“Great heavens! Blogs are the new Usenet!”
So, what role did blogs play in this campaign? Conservative Babbling Brooks begged me and a few other bloggers for a takedown of some bloggers on the American right bragging about the influence they had in the Canadian election (which is to say, none; but don’t tell them that). Antonia Zerbiasis noted in her column that the Canadian blogosphere had nothing along the lines of the American blogosphere’s Dan Rather moment, and I have to agree that we’ve yet to find a Canadian equivalent to the blogging-born Howard Dean.
A few commentators have said that people always underestimate Stephen Harper, and Stephen Harper always overestimates himself, and that might be a good analogy for the Canadian blogosphere, if not blogs in general. The outside world tends to pooh-pooh blogs, not realizing the community that’s been created here, and the grassroots that are being fostered. The political parties value blogs enough that they’ve incorporated them in their election strategy, despite the risks of associating themselves with the kooks and others with axes to grind that are so easy to find online. And the Canadian blogosphere can take credit for incubating the Income Trust Scandal story until the mainstream media were ready to take it on.
That said, many in the blogosphere have an over-inflated sense of their own importance, myself included, and we fail to realize how disconnected we are from the real world. Everybody in the American blogosphere was surprised when Howard Dean failed to walk away with the Democratic nomination in 2004, and a lot of people in in the Canadian blogosphere were surprised at how much resiliency the Liberals showed. Blogs are, quite often, insular and elitist, and I don’t mean this in a perjorative sense. We’re talking to the technically savvy, and those who can afford computers, internet connections, or the knowledge to use them, and that doesn’t nearly cover everybody who goes out to vote.
But give us time. The media at least acknowledged our existence. Witness the CBC and CTV’s embracing of blogs on their websites. I’m proud that the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians received equal billing alongside the Blogging Tories, the LibLogs and the Blogging NDP. It certainly spiked traffic. And it helped to illustrate that the Canadian blogosphere was more diverse and less partisan than one would think after examining the American blogosphere.
Over and above the BANPC, there was the Meet the Suppressed Bloggers Hotstove, wherein Conservatives Bob Tarantino and Greg Staples locked horns with NDPer Greg Bester in a free-for-all that was… surprisingly free of namecalling and partisanship. It was a pleasure to be a part of that, talking honestly with people with honestly-held, but divergent viewpoints. Look also at the quality of discussion on Sinister Thoughts, CalgaryGrit and the resurrected Bound by Gravity. If the new parliament can debate policy as civilly as is typically done at these sites, we should be in for a good government.
Earlier this month, Erin learned that she will be taking her test for her Canadian citizenship on January 31. She was disappointed that she wouldn’t get a chance to vote in this election. I reassured her that she’ll probably have a chance to vote again, soon. It’s way too early to tell, but since predictions are mostly harmless, I will say that I think we won’t go to the polls again until June 2007 — eighteen months from now. And if all of the parties honestly represent their constituents, this minority government might last two years. And I think it will likely be replaced by another minority government.
Okay, maybe that’s not a prediction so much as a hope. The Canadian blogosphere is a fun place to be because you can find sites which accept and encourage a respectful exchange of ideas, and it would be nice if our politicians emulated our more respectful bloggers. If Stephen Harper can keep an open mind, negotiate and compromise as well as cajole — if he lasts as I suspect he might, five-to-seven years over the course of two or three successive minority governments — he could become as good a prime minister as Pearson.
Or he could be a Clark. Or a Mulroney.
Time will tell. And we bloggers will be watching.