This isn't because the voters are mean, or spiteful, or stupid... it's because the Alberta Liberal party is resistant to change. Don't get me wrong - they change with the times. But, much like the Catholic Church, they long ago decided what it is they're going to believe in, and heaven help the poor soul - grassroots member or leader - who dares question Dogma. Because of this, Liberal support - much like attendance in Catholic parishes - is down.
The question, then, begs to be answered: Does it even MATTER who leads the Alberta Liberals? If the policies and values are going to be the same, unwavering and never changing, can anyone lead this party to an electoral victory? The party, much like the Church, sits there and expects people to come to them. Well, not to mix my religious metaphors, but the mountain that is Alberta's electorate isn't going to come to Mohammad - so Mohammad (the Alberta Liberals) are going to have to go to the mountain.
Shockingly... Dave Taylor gets it.
Taylor, of course, announced his candidacy for the leadership of Alberta's Official Opposition yesterday, to little fanfare (us political nerds aside). Other rumoured candidates include current MLA Laurie Blakeman, and former MLA Mo Elsalhy, who recently launched a blog with fellow-ex-MLA and first-ever recipient of the Enlightened Savage "Never Release Something You Wrote Angry on a Friday Night Directed At Your Political Adversaries That The Public Won't Give a Crap About Except To Laugh At You" award, Maurice Tougas.
Elsalhy may attract some of the younger crowd, while fire-breathing True Believers will flock to Blakeman, who symbolically represents the "the problem isn't within the party, the problem is the voters" bloc of the Alberta Liberals. Taylor, however, is the wildcard.
Let's get this out of the way: I like Dave Taylor. I thought he was a great talk radio host, and I was a frequent caller to his show. He was consistent, called it how he saw it, accepted no B.S. from you whether you started off agreeing or disagreeing with him, and flew the straight-and-narrow. When I heard he was getting involved in provincial politics, I wanted him to do well, regardless of party affiliation - and he has. Good, principled people who want to serve the public should be empowered to do so, and Taylor has been. The role he has served for the Alberta Liberals has been a little grating at times, as the unofficial "attack dog" of the caucus under Dr. Taft. In reality, though, Taylor has been one of the opposition members least prone to histrionics and hyperbole. Once they peeled Blakeman off the ceiling, Taylor would step up and ask an intelligent and biting question.
Our question NOW needs to be, can Taylor give the Liberals what they need?
In a word: "Yes". In 6 more: "But the membership won't LET him".
Dave Taylor is a centrist. So are most Albertans. He moved here, from somewhere else. So did most Albertans. He calls a spade a spade, and is a realist. Just like most of us. He's a likable person, provided you either a) agree with his point of view, or b) have no vested interest in losing the argument. Even if you DO have a vested interest, if you enjoy a spirited debate, Dave's a good egg. So where's the problem?
The problem is that Dave Taylor IS a realist. That he doesn't have his head planted in the sand, and sees that the Liberal party in Alberta needs to evolve or die. Yesterday, he admitted that they deserved to lose the election.
True-Red supporters of the Liberals view such proclamations as treasonous. "Did Taylor actually suggest that the party might have to change its policies and views to reflect the plurality of Albertans whom elect a government every 4 years or so? Ridiculous! We are, after all, Liberals. The party of Laurier. The party that formed this province, under Rutherford. Our views are static, our policies timeless, our values above reproach."
The problem for the Liberals is that the values of Albertans have changed. Their views are fluid. The policies for which they pine have evolved. And the Liberals refuse to either accept it, or follow suit. To win office, they'll need to do both, or wait for the whole province to shift back to their side - for the mountain to come to Mohammad.
Taylor knows you can't move the mountain. He'd lead the party to a shift to the right (where most Albertan voters are), EVER so slightly left of the PC's, and work on policies that typical Albertans will care about, rather than cracking open the book of Liberal dogma to determine policy.
And that's why the ideologues and dogmatics in the party won't let him win - and if he DOES win, won't follow where he leads.
"Change the policies? Change the approach? Change the NAME?!? Preposterous. If that's what it takes to win elections, then we're not interested."
Silly me... I thought that was the whole reason for political parties in the first place.
Good luck, Dave.