Reports from the Liberal Party’s first caucus meeting since the election last night are an interesting insight into the surreal nature of life in the party still led by the man “elected to be Opposition Leader” (as Dion wrongly claimed in his concession speech).
Apparently, Dion pressed that the party — despite a number of ex-MPs in the room who lost re-election due to the promotion of the Green Shift(™ licensed) — stay on the climate change bandwagon and continue to promote his programme.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with Dion pumping for his policy. The astounding part in the whole exercise, at least to me, is that none of the defeated, and, indeed, none of the elected, raised an objection to this.
Apparently Dion’s claim, in his resignation speech earlier this week, that it is the Canadian citizen who is at fault for “failing to understand the programme” and that it was merely “the effects of Conservative advertising” that sealed his and his party’s fate is a meme with greater circulation than just in Dion’s head.
One wonders what Liberals serve in their coffee at these morning meetings, for it certainly would (from this observer’s view) seem to create a hallucinogenic trance of some sort.
Those of us who have faced the Myers-Briggs battery to determine their “personality type” are familiar with the term “introverted intuitional” — something which, by external observation, seems to fit Dion extremely well. INs, as they’re known, tend to have a few close advisors/friends rather than a large circle of acquaintances they interact with regularly. They also tend to work using mental models of the world to understand it. The value of this is that it can lead to leaps of insight and intuitions about future events that jump over the flow of observations to allow proactive behaviour. The downside — for there is no free lunch, and all positive effects come with a negative as well — is that the mental model can become reality, such that events and data that challenge it are brushed aside and ignored rather than used to refine the model.
(As a futurist, I am also an IN — and the challenge of constantly refining models to reflect new information is a clear obligation and danger point in my work, much as it would be for an IN political leader.)
Most politicians tend to be extroverts, and good at sensing information, making them, in Myers-Briggs speak, ESes. This, for instance, is probably a good description of Duceppe, Layton and May (these leaders might not choose to comment on new information that shakes an ideological position, but they are aware of it and seeking a way to channel it in their favour). Our Prime Minister appears to be an IS — another introvert, but one who senses. We tend to find ESes personable; ISes and INs at best are respected (unless you make it into their inner circle, where their human warmth is retained).
I have diverted for a moment into this typology (which, to be fair, is often disputed as an analytic tool despite it being favoured by many human resource departments) in an attempt to understand what was reported yesterday. That Dion’s mental model of Canada and Canadians sees a clear and pressing danger requiring action on climate change — and that the case for this is obvious and compelling of rational assent without the need to take the ES or EN action of “selling” it through specifics — certainly explains his patent surprise that all we voters didn’t latch onto his Green Shift(™ licensed) as an obvious necessity (and thus vote for it by voting Liberal). That one might accept the need for climate action and disagree with this policy as the solution seems to have escaped his notice: a datum swept aside as “not fitting the model”. Then too, there are those who remain somewhat sceptical about the urgency, perhaps because they believe the economic and energy fundamentals will cause more than enough slowdown that an additional programme of behaviour modification is not required. There are those, as well, who question just exactly how “settled” climate science is — and there are legitimate areas of scientific concern about just exactly how much “cause and effect” can be applied even when ecological changes are acknowledged (as an actual reading of the IPCC report, for one, will show, even if one does not appeal to the philosophic invalidity of simple linear cause-and-effect in what is clearly a chaotic system with complex adaptive outcomes). In other words, there are reasons to not jump on the bandwagon and it is not, as Dion seems to have assumed, irrational to fail to do so.
Fair enough: beliefs that form a part of a person’s natural faith about the world do tend to dominate their considerations. The incredible, unbelievable part of this to my mind is the sheer lack of dissent to his assertions in caucus (as they have been reported; perhaps the Liberals are getting better at “sanitizing” and managing what they say to reporters).
That a political leader should expect a free ride from his opponents is ludicrous and calls into question some very fundamental issues of Dion’s own thinking. Whether it be Layton pointing out that the Liberals had failed to Oppose (via their 40+ abstentions) in the previous House and thus did not deserve a vote, or whether it be the Conservatives framing Dion and Liberal policies without an effective reply, it is the nature of party politics that you do have to answer your opponents. Dion’s (and, perhaps, some of his inner circle’s) abdication of any responsibility for failing in this very basic and obvious task is something that ought to had at least one voice raised in caucus. Apparently, none did.
Does this mean that fundamentally the Liberal caucus — MPs and Senators alike — believe that they should have a free ride without having to face opponents, and that the democratic wisdom of Canadians is suspect if “they” fail to act in accord with expectations? What would such a position say about the prospects for the Liberal Party in the future, if such a pervasive unreality is in fact gripping its key people?
I am left shaking my head with the sheer lunacy of it all.
So, here’s a tip for whomever leads the Liberal Party going forward. Treating voters as contemptible for “failing to co-operate” is likely to be met with rejection by those voters — take a good look at the Liberal history in Western Canada if you are in need of supporting evidence. Expecting your opponents to give you a free pass is just another form of entitlement thinking: that just keeps the meme of “Liberals have their hand in the till” that Chrétien’s Governments left (and note that public opinion is solidly behind the notion that Martin must have known and been involved in some way: this is one powerful idea). Failing to convince the majority of the public — and over 80% of the population are either ESes or ISes who need fact, details, etc. rather than a mental model to be convinced — of the virtue of your policies does not make the people “at fault” (and voters don’t like being told by implication either that they are idiots or not worthy of their franchise). In other words, Dion’s type of thinking about his and the party’s loss must go.
Perhaps, in turn, he needs to, too, and long before the new leader is elected.