Well, that was certainly less than ideal – especially when you look at the beautiful exercise in democracy the Democratic primaries turned into earlier this year. Sure, the Obama-Clinton duel featured controversy, vicious attacks, and hurt feelings, but it also featured real debate, a clash of ideas, and a thorough vetting of the candidates. More importantly, those primaries brought thousands of people into the fold, rejuvenating the party in the process. The candidates showcased themselves, the membership voted based on what they saw, and the party emerged stronger because of it.
I suspect that even Ignatieff supporters are feeling somewhat unsatisfied at this resolution. But I don’t want to be a downer here – it could have been a lot worse. Rae could have easily gone negative against Ignatieff and the establishment, turning the next month into a bloody internal battle of the likes unseen since…well, pick one of a thousand bloody internal Liberal battles. Instead, Rae put his party ahead of his own self-interest and the man deserves all the praise in the world for that. Ever since Bob took out an LPC membership, there have been doubts about his motivations and his commitment to the party – no one can doubt him now. I’m not a Rae supporter by any means but after listening to his very gracious words of support for Ignatieff, I took out my credit card and made a $50 donation to help erase his leadership debt.
So what now? Well, the philosopher king, Michael Ignatieff, inherits the mantle of Liberal leadership. I’ve always felt that Ignatieff had the potential for greatness. The man is brilliant, is a commanding speaker, and has inspired many. I believe he has grown exponentially as a politician since entering the political arena just three years ago, and he has surrounded himself with some of the brightest minds in the Liberal Party. He would make a great Prime Minister.
But I said “would” rather than “will” for a reason. Liberals need to recognize that the days of the Liberal leadership being a direct path to 24 Sussex are gone. Despite Dion’s failings, the problems with this party run deeper than leadership and there’s a lot of work to be done. I’ve written about what I think should be done, and after an aborted leadership race that has left many feeling alienated, it will be even more challenging to improve party fundraising, engage the membership, and figure out what this party stands for. While preparing for the next election is important, I hope that Ignatieff makes the long term health of the party an immediate priority of his.
So congratulations once again to Michael Ignatieff. The Liberal Party faces many challenges and I will do whatever I can to help him meet them.