Bob Builds His Liberal Party Legacy

As in 2008 (above), Rae has stepped aside for the good of the party

As I hoped would be the case, Bob Rae has taken a pass at the Liberal leadership race.

Despite Rae’s solemn pledge not to run for the permanent leader position, this news comes as a bit of a surprise in the wake of last week’s reports that he had all but declared. Rae himself acknowledged he’s given the matter serious thought, having made us all watch him “skate and then dance and then skate again through many scrums and individual interviews”.

While I think we would have been better served without the skating and dancing show, Rae should be applauded for his decision. Rae’s candidacy would have unleashed a divisive leadership race centered on the issue of when it’s ok for a politician to break his promise – not exactly the sort of contest that screams “renewal” to Canadians. The Liberal Party will be better served with Rae representing the party in the House, while the next generation of Liberals criss-cross the country signing up supporters.

This was no doubt a difficult decision. No matter how low the Liberal Party has fallen, Rae can be forgiven for dreaming of a leadership win followed by a series of miraculous events that allow him to stumble across the finish line first in 2015. After all, this is the man who “accidentally” won the 1990 Ontario election. Saying no today meant saying no to ever being Prime Minister – not an easy decision to make for someone who has lived and breathed politics for over 40 years.

At the same time, saying no to that dream secured Rae’s legacy. You’ll recall in 2006, many Liberals snered at him as a “tourist” in the Liberal Party, assuming he would pack his bags if he lost the leadership. Since then, Rae has twice won under the Liberal banner and has given thousands of hours of his life to the party. In 2008, he graciously stepped aside after caucus crowned Ignatieff interim leader in the wake of the coalition crisis. Rae could have easily gone negative, running for the permanent position against the establishment (hell, I would have voted for him), but he backed his old roomate for the good of the party. Today, Rae again made a difficult decision, placing his party above his ambitions.

The end result of this is that Rae will hold the interim title for 2 years – nearly as long as Dion and Ignatieff held their permanent positions – only Rae’s record will not be stained by electoral embarassments. He will hold a leadership role in the rebuilding process, and will be given his fair share of credit if his succesor makes gains in 2015.

Rae now instantly becomes one of the most respected Liberal Party elders in the land. That may not get you a portrait in the Parliament Buildings, but as far as legacies go, it’s not a bad way to wind down one’s political career.

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13 responses to “Bob Builds His Liberal Party Legacy”

  1. This was the right thing for Mr. Rae to do. I’m glad he concluded it was the right thing for him, as well.

  2. Or Rae, didn’t do it for the good of the party but because he realized that again, the Liberal party would not accept him as the leader so why go through all the work and heartache to be “looked over” again.

    It appeared that the liberal party establishment were never going to let Rae be the liberal leader because he will be forever tainted. Thus, I think Rae was smart not to put himself through that kind of behind the scenes destroy someone politically through whispers.

    • If Rae ran and lost, it definitely would have tarnished his legacy…I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a pretty campaign.

      It is possible that the rumours of a Trudeau candidacy scared Bob off. Of course, that’s all just wild speculation.

  3. Dan could ou point me to an article, or possibly write one if you don’t know of another, that lays out the new rules to selecting a leader. I understand it’s OMOV, or rather OM/SOV, but are all ridings equal like with the Conservatives or is it like the NDPs?

    • I believe it’s still the weighted one member one vote system adopted by the party at the 2009 convention in Vancouver. If so, that would mean every riding is equal, like the Conservatives’ system.

    • Kevin’s correct. All ridings will be weighted equally, so a candidate who can appeal to rural regions where the Liberals aren’t competitive has a big advantage.

      The other twist is the addition of the “supporters” who can also vote.

      I’ll draft up an overview post once the National Exec announces all the rules.

  4. Rae is a politician, you can always argue they have a bit of self interest at heart. But full credit to Rae for whatever his private reasoning might be that he did it early and will stay on in as the Interim Leader. I’m equally hopeful that he will be available to the eventual winner unencumbered by the bitterness of a leadership race to flesh out places they may be perceived as weak (name recognition, parliamentary skill etc) at least through one more election.

  5. It’s true the leadership fight would have been ugly if Rae had run – but it wouldn’t have been him who made it so.

    Mind you, I’m not saying that because I think he was the man for the job, but he did seem to be the best the Liberals had to offer.

    Hope I’m wrong about that.

    Who’s taking bets on whether Justin decides to run? What odds are you offering?

    • If I had to guess, I’d say there’s about a 60% chance Justin goes for it.

      Unlike most contenders, it’s not really a question of “can he win” for him, because he likely would. Rather, I think the questions he’s facing are:

      1. Does he want the job?

      2. Is his family cool with it?

      3. Does he think he’s the best person for the job?

      The benefit for him is that he can take his time in making a decision. He can play coy until the fall and still jump into this thing as the frontrunner, whereas other candidates need to get out there early to build organizations and support.

  6. In 2008, he graciously stepped aside after caucus crowned Ignatieff interim leader in the wake of the coalition crisis. Rae could have easily gone negative, running for the permanent position against the establishment (hell, I would have voted for him), but he backed his old roomate for the good of the party.

    Given how the Ignatieff-led election turned out… maybe not.

  7. So let me get this straight, despite inclusion of supporter category, the votes will only be for delegates at the EDA level? No direct voting? That is crap. And I thought the supporter category was a good move, but instead it is window dressing. I don’t think I will be spending time working for the Liberal Party after all. There is no way you are going to connect with large numbers of people by having them voting for opaque lists of local delegates. No way to connect them directly to issues and campaigns of interest. People will sit on lists of ‘suuporters’ and find new ways to withhold the data. The Liberal Party truly is addicted to backroom politcis.

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