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Raining on the euphoria of the merger

By Jackson Murphy
web posted October 20, 2003

Last week the long separated parts of Canada's right wing took radical steps to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The jubilation in many circles and the down right euphoria that this marriage has brought has raised the hopes of many. But back down on planet earth the merger pits the Canadian political versions of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs respectively against the evil New York Yankee-like Liberal Party.

Newlyweds: Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay (L) shares a laugh with Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper during their announcement of a right-wing party merger, in Ottawa on October 16
Newlyweds: Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay (L) shares a laugh with Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper during their announcement of a right-wing party merger, in Ottawa on October 16

Loveable losers though the two parties are two questions remain. Will the new Conservative Party snatch victory from the jaw of defeat, or rather defeat from the jaws of victory?

"The notion that the Liberals have been maintained in power only by the splitting of the right-of-center vote has been a source of immense solace to conservatives," writes Andrew Coyne in The National Post. "[R]ather as the ‘Curse of the Bambino' has been to Boston Red Sox fans over the years: It's a happier explanation than mere incompetence."

As Coyne suggests the act of merging does not guarantee victory. Instead it makes victory that much more difficult, as defeat and failure at the polls can no longer simply be excused away. Sure they are throwing away their crutches, but those were steadying crutches helping the right wing walk.

Wasn't this part of the fun of being on the right the last three election cycles? The Liberals have won, with authority every single time, and they smugly strut around. And the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives have to relive the elections nights, campaign stops, wetsuits, and gaffes every day after.

Another comment, from a recovering Post writer echoes these reserved thoughts. Mark Steyn also isn't dancing in the streets just yet. "Oh, dear, I wish I were as enthusiastic as you. We may be at a crossroads, but I'm not sure I'm ready to row, though that doesn't mean I'm going to be abandoning ship and heading back down the street. But if I dump a huge shower of rain on your parade that's all the more reason to keep rowing."

On one hand the new party must be on some sort of right track to begin with. It has angered the progressive part of the PC Party as David "Kingmaker" Orchard and "Jurassic" Joe Clark have already condemned the proposal. If you want to galvanize the right there is no better way than trotting out the reddest of Red Tories.

Perhaps the betrayal of Clark, and David Orchard, especially old Joe is the political equivalent of digging up Babe Ruth's body from the cemetery in New York, apologizing for trading him, and reburying him under the pitcher's mound at Fenway Park. It is a curse breaker, or at least in this case a good start.

On the other hand it is still dangerous and wishful thinking to think that a merge alone will mean instant victory. More important is finding someone to lead this rag tag group of anyone but the Liberals out of the wilderness and back into power. Getting someone like Red Sox manager Grady Little, or that Cub fan with the wandering arms, will get front row seats only to the next Liberal Throne Speech not a Conservative victory party.

But who?

Paul Wells at Macleans.ca suggested a short list that included Preston Manning, "This whole thing was his idea, and I mean, like, 30 years ago. Are there simply no rewards in Canadian politics for being right?" or Bernard Lord or Jim Dinning, "architect of Alberta's fiscal turnaround, Stockwell Day with a library card."

Last but certainly not least Wells offers up this wisdom: "But all of these candidates fail before the man who should be the right's dream candidate. You're looking for a proven winner who can think of nothing better than to take the fight to Paul Martin? You need Jean Chrétien."

That is both disgusting and genius in its Machiavellian construct at the same time. Both worth watching in a car wreck sort of a way and gut wrenching in its outrageous act of unbridled cynicism. The problem remains that there may not be a leader capable of breaking the curse of Canada's right wing.

The aftermath and euphoria of the merger reminds me of Uma Thurman in the new Tarantino film "Kill Bill" when asked, "You didn't think it was gonna be that easy, did you?"

"You know, for a second there, yeah, I kinda did."

The good news in all this is, like Cubs and Red Sox fans everywhere, that there is always next year. More importantly there is always the next election, and the one after that, and so on.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is a senior writer at Enter Stage Right and the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7.

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