The Centre Couldn’t Hold

By Josh Lieblein

It was damn close. Closer than all the pundits and professional predictors thought it would be.

But even if it had been the other way around and Elliott had edged Ford out, the takeaway is the same:  Those who think that they can stave off the populist revolution with the same old centrist tricks are fooling themselves.

Yes, even here in Canada.

All the op-eds and carefully crafted sound bites, all the usual smears about Russian bots and sounding off about abortion, all the calls for unity and hectoring reminders that “elections are won in the centre” proved useless.

Now, of course, we know what happens next. The recounts and conspiracy theories. The fulminating about the popular vote and the nostalgia for delegated conventions. The anguished cries to the effect that the PCs just handed the Liberals another majority.

All water under the bridge. More useless, empty talk. The same sort of cynical promises and reassurances that led to Doug Ford’s election will continue. No lessons will be learned by those who lost. No changes will be made by them.

For we have all seen this movie before. The experts and musers have done nothing but gawk at Trump for 2 years. They sat there open-mouthed while Trump beat Hillary, then repeated her mistakes faithfully, like a script they were following.

On some level, though, they must have known. They must have felt that party members, forced to endure constant defeat and humiliation and abuse from the party bosses, forced to sit and content themselves with the depredations and antics of Patrick Brown under the premise that nothing could be more important than defeating Kathleen Wynne, right up to the last moment where a broad swath of them were unable to vote due to the party not being able to get it right, were going to vent their frustrations.

But instead, right up until the bitter end they continued to kick and scream and insist that their way was the right way and that the armchair critics didn’t know what they were talking about. They weren’t willing to change and adapt to the times and a new environment. They went with what was comfortable and familiar. And they have only themselves to blame for it.

This is not to say that Ford’s rote recitation of the Trump script, albeit in a Canadian accent and politeness, was any more inspired or revolutionary. This is not to say that Ford has a clear path to victory in June. And this is certainly not to say that I approve of his victory.

What it does say, however, is that, mercifully, there is a limit to what people will put up with. It is up to Kathleen Wynne to learn this lesson, and it is up to every other hack coasting on their momentum or that of others to learn it too.

You need to get it right. There is no substitute. No excuse. You win every day, or you get passed by.









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