The Upside of the Flip-Flop

So David Emerson, former heavy-hitting Liberal cabinet minister, saw fit to defect to the ranks of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. In one way, I completely agree with the public dismay. In a breathtaking and blatant exhibition of arrogant careerism, Mr. Emerson chose to betray the predominantly left-leaning voters in his riding who cast their ballots for him. It should be realized that many of them did so mainly as an act of strategic voting; an effort to keep the thinly-disguised Bush / Thatcher/ Harris-styled neoconservatives away from the levers of power. Now, Emerson has the gall to take the offensive, proclaiming outrage and bewilderment that he has been the subject of so much public vitriol. If someone in a position of influence had actually set out with the express intention of increasing public cynicism with respect to the political process, it would be difficult to create a more effective way of doing so.

I believe very strongly in the process of democracy. I have voted in every election — municipal, provincial, and federal — since the time I reached the age of majority. Furthermore, I hold the belief that many of the people who run for political office in this country are fundamentally intelligent, hard-working, and well-meaning individuals. It’s easy to see, though, why so many people feel alienated by the world of politics. For one thing, there is the ludicrously antiquated “first past the post” electoral system, which more or less guarantees that a good chunk of the total votes cast will be cast to no avail. Then, there is the ongoing public perception of government corruption and venality, evident no matter which political party is in power. (Anyone remember Airbus?) Emerson’s about-face is just one more nail in the coffin of credibility when it comes to politics.

On the other hand, though, I can’t help but rejoice at the fact that this politician has displayed his true colours. For one thing, it demonstrates just how conservative the so-called Liberal party has become of late. Mr. Emerson is indeed correct when he suggests there is little difference between Stephen Harper’s agenda and the one that Martin’s Liberals were pushing when they were in power. As many of us are aware, it’s just the same old “the rich get richer” kowtowing to the big business crowd. As witnessed by Martin’s desperate last-minute attempts to portray himself as anti-conservative, it’s not until big-L liberals find themselves on the verge of losing power that they actually condescend/pretend to any sort of progressive platform policies.

It is always good to have your enemies out in the open. Another reason that I’m happy about the Emerson backstab is the fact that it unveils Harper’s claims to government integrity for the hollow pandering that they actually are. Expect more of the same and quickly. Another benefit of the whole fiasco is the point it makes about the futility of voting strategically. Voting should never be an act of holding your nose and choosing between the lesser of two evils. If you believe that progressive thinking is needed in Ottawa, then for Christ-sake vote NDP or Green. Finally, I am truly grateful to Emerson for removing any doubt as to what his personal political beliefs and morals are. And I am hopeful they will be firmly in the minds of his constituents when it comes time to mark their ballots and cast their votes once again, and hand this two-timing weasel his political head on a platter.