Saturday, November 25, 2006

Academics in Politics

There are people that are worried with Ignatieff being an academic. Now, I don't want this blog to be a sycophantic fanboy list of reasons why "my guy is the bestest." No, I'll try and keep this about me and politics. But this one cuts right to the heart of it, because I'm also an academic, and I worry about this whole line of reasoning.

Here's why.

Ignatieff is an academic; no one's denying that. I don't think that's the issue: the idea that university professors are incapable of forming broad policies or working within reality is a stereotype that isn't apt in this instance. And I won't even get going on what's wrong with a society that thinks that they can have a leader "too smart" for them. Intelligence cannot be the issue. I refuse to believe that we've become that conditioned to distrust the Academy, and would rather have someone "we can relate to", like George W Bush, whom I'm sure is a lovely man to drink with, except that he doesn't.

The real issue, I think, is that academics, by virtue of being academics, not a seasoned politicians.

And therein lies the best thing about Ignatieff from a marketing standpoint. In fact, I think it might be the best thing for the Liberal party (see post below for why that's important).

The Conservatives have done a great job of "branding" the Liberal party as a corrupt, out-of-touch party whose goals amount to little more than staying in power or, now, getting back into it. And if that happened, say the Tories, it would only consist of "more of the same": patronage, old ideas, and not looking out for average people. Just look at their slogans: "Canada's New Government" and "Getting things done for all of us". All government press releases begin the same way: "Canada's New Government to VERB ----> ELECTION CANDY ---->NOUN".

Rest assured, the next election will not be about what the Tories have done; it will be about what their new government has done that the Old Government didn't do for average people. Worse still, the concept of the LIberal party has been turned into a general pejorative: people don't need to have reasons for not liking the LIberal party, they just don't. Liberal=Bad/Old. That's what the Tories have done. And that's what we are up against.

In order to even start, we cannot have a leader that can easily be painted with the traditional Liberal brush. They can't be an institutional politician. They can't be dismissed with a "more of the same" attack. Worse still, they must be radically different. The corrupt Liberal image has, in my opinion, become such a basic assumption that the best way to fight it is to do so radically.

Who better than a leader that is not a seasoned politician? A leader that has the intellect and the vision to guide the country, and the support to do so effectively? With our neighbours to the south it's easy to assume that any lack of experience will manifest as verbal fumbling on the order to Bush-esque quotes that involve sentences without nouns. Clearly, that's not the case.

Instead, we have someone that give us the greatest chance to saying to the Canadian people "we are a new LIberal party. A party driven by vision and a goal for the country, rather than simply staying in power. We are the apotheosis of what it means to be Canadian: a party driven by the desire to do well by one another. Driven by ideals. By reason. By passion. And by vision. That, and budget surpluses earmarked to debt-repayment."

To dismiss this possibility because a man might be too much of an academic?

That would be worrying.

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