If you read this exchange between Bob Rae and Thomas Mulcair, you will see two different perceptions of the Liberal Party. Rae sees the Liberals as a misunderstood force for good, put upon by all sides. The Mulcair sees the Liberals as a bunch of do nothings, who talk left and govern right. If you look out in the blogosphere, these perceptions are common in Liberal and NDP blogs. To me this would indicate a couple of things. First, it is virtually useless for Liberals to try to poach NDP support at this point. People who are voting NDP these days tend to share Mulcair's view of the Liberal Party. NDP voters just do not like, nor do they trust, the Liberals (largely, I would submit, due to the behavior of past Liberal majority governments).
Second, the Liberals are going to have a tough time growing their party beyond the limited range in which they find themselves. If you look at the polls, this is not because of the NDP. The NDP is stuck in its own historical range and has been for years. What has changed is the rise of specific issue parties, the Bloc and the Greens. To me, it is no coincidence that the rise of the Greens especially, has happened at the same time Liberal support has fallen. If you add the two parties' support together you get the traditional Liberal numbers. The NDP, for all the bluster on the Liberal side, has not eaten into their voter base. Liberals need to get this through their heads. The NDP threat is more illusion than real. The Liberal Party is losing support elsewhere.
So, what is the way forward? I would suggest electoral reform. I know this sends Liberals to the exits, muttering to themselves about "only needing another 10% of the vote to get a majority", but hear me out. These trends are not going away. The days of Liberal majorities are past. In fact, what I am seeing is Conservative minorities as far as the eye can see. However, if Liberals join forces with the NDP and Greens to push for electoral reform that reflects the electoral wishes of the voters, they may yet again get to sit on the government side of the House of Commons. Liberals may not like sharing the stage with smaller parties (and believe me the feeling is more than mutual), but Liberal supporters (and of NDP and Greens) have to ask themselves whether the alternative of perpetual Conservative governments is better? The voters and supporters of each party do not have to like each other, but perhaps they can find common ground to work together. Poaching supporters from the other parties is not working and is only helping the Conservatives. It's time to try something else.
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