The liberal dilemma - Macleans.ca

The liberal dilemma

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Stanley Greenberg outlines the trouble for Democrats in the United States.

This distrust of government and politicians is unfolding as a full-blown crisis of legitimacy sidelines Democrats and liberalism. Just a quarter of the country is optimistic about our system of government — the lowest since polls by ABC and others began asking this question in 1974. But a crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism. It doesn’t hurt Republicans. If government is seen as useless, what is the point of electing Democrats who aim to use government to advance some public end?

…  it has been the conservatives, the Tea Party members and the anti-immigrant groups who understand the anger with government, and rush in to exploit it. Perhaps now, with the debacle in Washington, liberals will become instinctively angry with this illegitimate government and build their politics from there.

Consider, in this vein, the rhetoric Jack Layton used in the last election. A few excerpts from the speech he gave on the last night of the election.

Do you think it’s time to fix Ottawa? Is it time for leadership you can trust? … Canadians are turning away from the same old scandals and from the tired old debates. Everywhere I’ve been, Canadians are turning towards a better choice, towards leadership they can trust … Because, my friends, for too long, Ottawa has put families at the end of the line. We’ve seen leaders promise to clean up scandals, but just replace them with scandals of their very own. We’ve seen leaders who would rather divide Canadians than bring them together. And for too long, your leaders have said one thing and then they’ve turned around and done another…

Now, it’s time for Ottawa to live up to the Canadian spirit. We can do better. It doesn’t have to be this way … But, my friends, in these last few days, bringing change to Ottawa isn’t up to me. It’s up to you. It starts with a vote—your vote.