Will you marry me, Stinky?
It wasn't really a bad date, but it sure felt like one. On election night in the 2011 Federal election, a couple of NDP supporters and I stopped by the victory party at a Charlottetown bar to congratulate the newly elected Liberal MP and his supporters. It was a curious time for them, for despite the modest local success; in the country as a whole the Liberals had just been severely creamed, getting less than 19 per cent of the vote.
But in Charlottetown, one of the safest seats in the country, they had prevailed, and had done well in Atlantic Canada, their last base of support, despite being reduced to a rump in the rest of Canada. Indeed, over 30 per cent of all Liberal seats were from our region, which represents less than six per cent of the national population. Suddenly, changing the Liberal party name to Bloc Atlantique seemed like a reasonable option.
So to say that the Charlottetown victory party was a place where Liberal activists were of two minds, would be an understatement. How do you get your head around being thrashed and winning in the same contest? One strategy exercised that night by two Liberal enthusiasts seated at the bar, after a series of high-fives were exchanged, was to declare, “...that Island Liberals, at least, know how to win!”, as they pointed to the three out of four MP's who were Liberals.
But perhaps the most prevalent sentiment at that Liberal victory celebration/wake, was how various Liberals were talking enthusiastically about merging with the NDP. A sentiment which was brought home neatly by one of their senior activists, who approached us excitedly to discuss the idea.
Recognizing us as “known NDP supporters” he used the metaphor that it was “time we drank from the same glass!" as he held up his goldfish-bowlsized glass of red wine, the elixir creating a small tidal bore as he waved it from side-to-side. Having so brutally being consigned to the far corners of the House of Commons, he, and others, thought it was time to set this right and get back to power. And sipping from the same goblet was the way to do it.
It wasn't really a bad date, but it sure felt like one.
What made it feel so crummy was how he did it, and how the merger idea can often be presented, by both the NDP and Liberals to the other side. Simply put, both parties have some activists who can rhyme off the other's deficiencies, then propose merging. On that election night, with the tide setting in and out on his small sea of redwine, the Liberal activist brought this approach home neatly, by listing off all the things he found unattractive about the NDP. Then he suggested we drink from the same large chalice of voters.
Which is why it always seems like such a bad date, when either party does it. On that curious night of Liberal exultation and depression and vats of wine, the lousy courtship skills of the Liberal were akin to the worst marriage proposal ever, “You have oily skin, ratty hair, usually have a foul stench about you, and are crude and thoughtless. I don't like much of what you think (Hic!) Let's get married.”