Liberals: Shaking Off The Timidity

Plenty of talk about where the Liberals need to move, left or right, the center, when really it should be about standing for things we believe in and letting the spectrum take care of itself. Truth is, people don’t fit into neat little boxes, part of the success of the Conservatives is using certain policies to connect with people that wouldn’t be top of mind targets, it’s how you build a winning coalition of voters.

One word epitomizes the Liberals in recent years, "timid". Liberals always seem to first consider who they might offend with a particular position, which often times leads to watered down policies or just avoiding issues all together. Anytime a "bold" position is articulated, it’s met with "oh, but" and the idea is torn apart, in the name of trying to be everything to everyone. Always trying to accommodate, forever afraid of controversial views, this mentality has contributed to the rot of the Liberal brand. I’ve experienced examples of this mentality on this blog, when I’ve demanded "bold" and offered examples, it’s often met with "that’s reckless", or "we don’t want to touch that", or visceral reactions that scare people. In reality, any real position will offend, alienate, but the power of conviction is also appealing and attractive.

With the above in mind, when I think of liberalism, I see the issue of euthanasia as one of the next great debates that we need to have in this country. I’ve mention prior some of the EXACT wording that comes from this CBC piece on the topic, the notion that the public is well ahead of politicians:

There simply isn’t any other issue on which the public and the politicians are so out of sync with each other. 

The discrepancy was picked up by Vote Compass, an online survey of national issues on during the recent election campaign, according to director of analytics Peter Loewen. "The Vote Compass data help us identify issues in which the views of our respondents match up with none of the parties. Euthanasia is the most startling case," Loewen said. 

This is how the Vote Compass question was worded: "If they so wish, should terminally ill patients be able to end their own lives with medical assistance?" Almost all Vote Compass respondents were supportive of the option, regardless of political stripe. Only a small hump of Conservative supporters strongly disagreed with the notion.

To try and soothe Liberals, I go beyond simply philosophical arguments. Liberals should champion "choice", the principles are core and yet we avoid this issue like the PLAGUE. Why? Because, people react strongly, you WILL offend subsets, euthanasia is forever controversial. However, championing the issue also has tremendous appeal, which is why euthanasia has a moral, as well as strategic, value. Polls have shown overwhelming support for at least limited euthanasia, this CBC compass polls confirms this sentiment in resounding fashion. In fact, of all the questions, it is on this issue that we see the greatest chasm between public acceptance and political timidity. Also, as with other findings, apart from hardcore Conservatives, there is little electoral downside, but plenty of potential. If you breakdown the regionals, the results are even more informative.

Liberals need to start standing for things, that reflect core philosophy. Liberals need to be provocative, we need to challenge, we need to put ourselves at the center of important discussions, rather than avoiding and not being current in application. The Quebec government has started the conversation, we’ve had some marginal introductions in Parliament, but the issue remains almost taboo, DESPITE every bit of evidence suggesting the public is ready for the conversation. Liberals have a lot of work to do in the near term, but when we get down to who we are, where we stand, how we reconnect and energize the brand, THIS issue deserves consideration. The issue speaks to everyone, it has philosophical underpinnings, and above all, it isn’t safe and bland, it’s progressive, not reckless. Not alienating anyone isn’t a virtue, it’s a voluntary paralysis.

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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