Iggy’s Ivy League friends react to Liberals' defeat - Macleans.ca

Iggy’s Ivy League friends react to Liberals’ defeat

Former colleagues surprised by attack ads; point out Ignatieff was a popular and celebrated academic


Some of Michael Ignatieff’s past Ivy League colleagues were surprised the former Liberal leader was so relentlessly criticized during the federal election for the time he spent outside Canada, noting that he was a popular and celebrated academic during his time at Harvard, according to the Boston Globe.

Ignatieff left his position at Harvard to run for a seat in Parliament in 2006. He has also taught at Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics.

“To me, it’s a puzzle why Michael, who is one of the most charismatic people I know, would be presented the way he was presented in Canada, as some sort of carpetbagger,” Fotini Christia, an assistant professor at MIT who was Ignatieff’s teaching assistant for four years at Harvard, told the Boston Globe.

Graham Allison, a professor and administrator at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was angered that Ignatieff was portrayed as unpatriotic and “just visiting” by attack ads during the election. “He is a Canadian, he was a proud Canadian at Harvard, and would introduce himself as a proud Canadian, and he comes from a proud Canadian family, so that’s more of a political rap,” Allison said.

However, some admitted that they were worried when he announced that he was leaving the ivory tower to run for a seat in Parliament, and saw the criticisms launched against him as rather predictable.

“The biggest obstacle he faced was the perception that he was a recent returnee to his native land who wasn’t really qualified to run the entire country,’’ said Stephen M Walt, a Kennedy School professor and friend of Ignatieff’s. “[ … ] It did seem like something of a long shot to have been outside the country for so long and to go back with the clear intention of gaining the prime ministership relatively quickly.”

When asked by the Globe and Mail why he did not respond to attack ads, Ignatieff said that he and his party responded “with the resources we had.”

“I was aware from the minute I entered politics that I had to control the narrative of my life. I did my best to do that. There’s no question that I failed. But the idea that I sat there not trying to reply is not right,” Ignatieff said.

“I tried to reply with the resources I had personally and with the resources that the party had, and I’ll always regret that my inability to control that narrative had an impact on the fortunes of other people.”

Ignatieff has recently accepted a senior resident position with the University of Toronto’s Massey College. Notable politicians to hold the position in the past include Pierre Trudeau, former Ontario premier Bob Rae, and former Reform party leader Preston Manning.

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Iggy’s Ivy League friends react to Liberals’ defeat

  1. .
    The party, and all parties, must understand the strategy and nature of the attack before they develop an approach to it in the future. 
    That is where multidisciplinary academic input and analysis (psychologists, neurolingists, et al) can play a part. The Government of Harper/Conservative machine speaks to the polity’s limbic system. You cannot deal with that with: 
    1. A much smaller budget. 
    2. A limbic counter-attack. (This is Canada, after all, not the U.S.). 
    3. An appeal to voters’ frontal cortices on only a vote level. 
    The most effective response is education, part of which is explanation and deconstruction of the Government of Harper’s methodology. Since they have been quite open about their planning and operationalization of the attack, parties can begin with that. 
    Having a lower budget, the response needs to exploit low-budget options with a wide audience (youTube, eg). 
    I’d like to speak to the American bemusement at the campaign, since I took strong exception myself to Mr. Ignatieff’s unwelcome installation into the Liberal party, simply because it was inherently wrong not merely strategically foolish. But that’s not going to help the Liberals. They have to re-think the way they do things from the ground up. They are dealing with one of the most sophisticated organizations of any Western democracy: a party operating under extremely tight efficiency and quality-control principles, with a completely amoral (not immoral), and non-ethical (not unethical) guiding philosophy. 
    Under these circumstances, the Government of Harper stands to achieve what American conservatives failed in when they sought a permanent installation of a Republican administration. This is no doubt due in large measure to the personality and character of Mr. Harper himself: the ideal bean-counter. 

  2. Mr. Ignatieff’s performances in televised interviews and during the Leaders’ debates destroyed any chances he had of winning the Canadian election. He invariably came across as arrogant, unprepared, insightless, and rather pathetic. He was an embarrassment to watch.

    His absences from Canada were a side-issue to the viewers. Leadership qualities were the main issue. Mr. Ignatieff showed the Canadian voters that he can never be a leader.

  3. With the loss of Michael Ignatieff (Canadians spoke clearly) we missed the chance of marrying a ‘progressive’ voice at the helm of our country.

  4. the chattering classes in boston should just go download the canadian televised debates. i could run off a description, but it’s better if they watch it themselves.

    the truth is that the liberals and ignatieff were competing just fine before that distinct, clear turning point in the election.